Early on, our lab elucidated the relationship between mechanical force and the body's ability to stimulate bone growth and investigated additional factors that drive growth and healing. We also demonstrated the underlying tenets of bone healing and how it can be facilitated, even in the context of radiation. We have shown that numerous compounds, including amifostine, deferoxamine, parathyroid hormone and others, as well as stem-cell-based approaches – separately and in combination – can in fact ameliorate and even prevent – the harmful effects of radiation on bone. With deferoxamine and hyaluronic acid, for example, we have been able to improve healing rates from just 20% to over 90% in pre-clinical animal studies.
These discoveries can enable the use of restorative surgical techniques such as distraction osteogenesis (DO), offering new, less invasive and more effective treatment options and hope to patients who have undergone radiation therapy. We are the first to take the concept of radioprotection of bone and apply it to skin and soft tissue in expander-based breast reconstruction for breast cancer patients who have had radiation treatment. The small animal models we have developed of mandibular DO as well as breast reconstruction, femoral fracture for diabetic fracture repair and mandibular fracture for aging are leading to new translational insights into bone and soft tissue regeneration and tissue engineering across a broad range of applications and potential patient populations.