Penn has received a $3.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for the study of musculoskeletal disorders.
The grant will fund a center that will involve 75 faculty members from five Penn schools, though it will be based largely in the Medical School.
The grant, spread over five years, will fund three laboratories for the center, with specialized equipment intended to allow faculty to delve into new experiments.
Lou Soslowsky, the professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Bioengineering who heads the center, said that the labs, which will be called "cores," will let faculty to essentially extend their lab space and undertake projects for which the facilities are currently lacking.
Muscular disorders, which include carpal tunnel syndrome and lower back pain, are the No. 1 reason for office visits for people under 40, Soslowsky said.
The diseases often "prevent people for working, playing sports, or living independently," Soslowsky said.
In addition to the Medical School, the center's resources will go to the School of Veterinary Medicine, the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Dental Medicine.
Dental professor Elisabeth Barton looks forward to the new shared lab space.
"The use of the core facilities will be most helpful for my research," she said.
Researchers say that, while high-tech lab space is useful, the collaborations which result from seminars and talks the center sponsors are likely to be the most useful part.
A major goal of the center is "bringing together people of like interest," Soslowsky said.
Barton agreed that "the main impact of this grant [is to] foster a sense of community among the musculoskeletal researchers at Penn."
Such a promise of collaboration lured Orthopedic Surgery professor Robert Mauck to Penn.
"It served as an attraction to me to come here, that there was a pretty large group of people interested in orthopedics and orthopedic disorders," he said.
The center will also fund small pilot studies. Mauck recently applied for one and expects to receive funding soon. The grants "give people like me the opportunity to do a little research and then apply for extramural funding," he said.
Soslowsky said that the interdisciplinary nature of the center was enhanced by Penn's layout, with all its schools located on one campus.
"It's one of the nice things about Penn," he said.
The NIH is funding four similar centers across the country.