Gullbrand Laboratory

Ongoing Research Projects

Our lab studies how aberrant structure-function relationships across the spine contribute to the initiation and progression of degenerative disc disease. We probe spinal tissues, including intervertebral discs, vertebral bones, cartilage endplates, and facet joints—elucidating connections between tissue structure and degeneration. This includes deriving connections between osteoarthritis in the facet joints and degeneration in the discs as well as understanding the effect of disc degeneration on diffusion and convection across the annulus fibrosus-endplate and nucleus pulposus-endplate interfaces. Additionally, our group develops novel tissue scaffolding technologies for disc regeneration. Translation of these living constructs for clinical use in human patients through large animal models has become vital to our research mission.

Research Highlights:
  • Investigating the contribution of vertebral endplate remodeling and altered disc nutrition on the progression of disc degeneration.
  • Utilizing quantitative magnetic resonance imaging methods to understand how altered disc nutrition may predict patients’ response to non-operative treatments for back pain. 
  • Probing associations between facet joint osteoarthritis and disc degeneration.
  • Optimizing the integration of a whole tissue-engineered intervertebral disc replacement via biomaterial modifications. These studies seek to accelerate bone and vascular ingrowth into the construct’s endplate interface.
Disc degeneration (left) and facet osteoarthritis (right) in the lumbar spine.
Disc degeneration (left) and facet osteoarthritis (right) in the lumbar spine.


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