Our Labs

Canalis Laboratory


Ernesto Canalis, MD
Director, Center for Skeletal Research
Professor, Orthopaedic Surgery & Medicine

David Bridgewater
Research Assistant II

Tabitha Eller
Research Assistant I

Brittany Robinson
Laboratory Assistant

Lauren Schilling
Research Assistant II

Jungeun Yu
Postdoctoral Fellow

Mary Yurczak
Administrative Program Assistant II

Contact Us


The Canalis laboratory is known for the discovery of skeletal growth factors and has pursued important investigations on the role of growth factors and their antagonists in skeletal cell function. Dr. Canalis’ group has made seminal contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms of glucocorticoid action in bone in an effort to explain the pathogenesis of glucocorticoid induced osteoporosis and correct the disease. The laboratory’s recent work has centered on factors determining osteoblast cell fate and function. These investigations include studies on the role of Notch signaling and Nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) in osteoblastic cell differentiation. Cellular and genetically engineered mouse models are used for the research conducted by the group. The laboratory is particularly interested in translational research and has created genetically engineered mouse models of Hajdu Cheney Syndrome and Lehman Syndrome, devastating diseases characterized by bone loss and fractures. The studies have allowed the team to determine mechanisms of the bone loss and are exploring ways to prevent the skeletal disease. The laboratory has been funded continuously by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since the 1980’s, and in 1990 received a MERIT Award from the National Institute of Musculoskeletal and Skin Disorders (NIAMS).  Currently, the laboratory is funded by NIAMS and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

Human Soft Tissue Research Laboratory

Mazzocca Lab

Mark Cote, PT, DPT, MSCTR
Director of Outcomes, Research, and Quality

Jessica Divenere, BS
Director of the Bioskills Laboratory

Jeremiah Johnson, MD
Neag Research Fellow

Mary Beth McCarthy, BS
Director of the Cell Biology Laboratory

Julian Mehl, MD
International Sports Medicine Fellow

Dachi Morikawa, MD
International Sports Medicine Fellow

Elifho Obopilwe, MS
Director of the Biomechanics Laboratory

Alexander Otto, MD
International Sports Medicine Fellow

Contact Us


The field of orthopaedics is changing and evolving at an ever-increasing rate. In the Human Soft Tissue Research (HSTR) laboratory, we evaluate, validate, and improve the devices, surgical techniques, and clinical outcomes within the UConn Musculoskeletal Institute and around the world. The work performed in our laboratory serves to advance the skills of medical students, orthopaedic residents, orthopaedic sports medicine fellows, and visiting surgeons around the world. These physicians are exposed to the latest in biologics, orthopaedic devices, and surgical techniques and can explore the outcomes of potential techniques utilizing our highly trained staff.

The Human Soft Tissue Research lab is made up of three labs that study tendon to bone healing from the cell and molecular, biomechanical, and clinical outcomes levels. By studying the patient as a whole and incorporating fundamental translational strategies to assess healing, we can improve overall health and well being. Read more about each lab within HSTR:

  • Cell Biology Laboratory
    One area of interest in our cell and molecular biology laboratory is to explore different ways to promote successful tendon to bone reinsertion by augmenting the repair using autologous human bone marrow stromal cells and platelet rich plasma. Our laboratory has been successful in insolating and characterizing adult human mesenchymal cells from the proximal humerus. Further, we have differentiated these cells toward multiple lineages including bone, cartilage and fat proving their pluripotent potential. Delivery of these cells to the repair site can be challenging. Currently, there is an abundance of new biomaterials being marketed for various surgical techniques. Although the theory of delivering adult stem cells to the surgical site may be advantageous to healing, many of the biomaterials used fall short in their ability to encourage cell growth, proliferation or lack the necessary signals to encourage differentiation. Ultimately, we aim to develop a “smart” biomaterial, which can, at the molecular level, signal these cells toward bone and tendon lineages.
  • Biomechanics Laboratory
    Our Biomechanics laboratory features cutting edge mechanical testing systems to study all manners of joints, bones and soft tissues related to Orthopaedics. We utilize state of the art, modern multi-axial test systems, shoulder simulators and 3D motion tracking systems to evaluate surgical constructs with a high degree of precision. The results of these studies leads to the advancement of clinical sciences and are published in highly respected Orthopaedics journals.

    As an example we have an advanced shoulder simulator which can apply programmable loads or displacement to six different muscles simultaneously. When applied to intact/normal cadaver shoulders, injured and repair techniques patient outcomes can be modelled. The evaluation of 3D motion produced by these tests can be used by physicians to improve understanding and outcomes of their clinically relevant issues.

  • Clinical Trials and Outcomes Laboratory
    Our clinical research area focuses on patient reported outcomes following shoulder and elbow surgery. Collection of data includes administering validated surveys to patients before and after surgery to determine medical improvement. Using the information collected from patients, as well as physical exam and imaging, we can more aptly determine if a treatment is effective and gather further information on how to treat patients with the same diagnosis in the future. Our current clinical outcomes are centered on primary and revision rotator cuff repairs and total shoulder replacements for the shoulder; and distal biceps outcomes for the elbow.

Kumbar Laboratory


Sangamesh G. Kumbar, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Orthopaedic Surgery
Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Associate Professor, Materials Science and Engineering

Swetha Rudraiah, Ph.D.
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Orthopaedic Surgery
Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Saint Joseph

Sama Abdulmalik
Ph.D. Graduate Student

Michael Arul, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow

Matthew Harmon, MD
Ph.D. Graduate Student

Stephane Jean-Pierre
MS Graduate Student

Bryan Ferrigno
Medical Student

Ohan Manoukian
Ph.D. Graduate Student

Joshua Moskow
Undergraduate Student

Jonathan Nip
Ph.D. Graduate Student

Daisy Ramos
Ph.D. Graduate Student

Naseem Sardashti
Undergraduate Student

Contact Us


The Kumbar laboratory specializes in the fabrication and characterization of micro nanostructures, with focus on semi-synthetic polymers for tissue engineering and drug delivery applications. Semi-synthetic polymers consisting of synthetic and natural based materials integrate the advantageous mechanical properties of synthetic materials, while preserving the inherent biological functions of natural materials. These novel materials are fabricated into micro nanostructures to promote enhanced tissue regeneration and controlled drug delivery systems. Current ongoing projects in the laboratory include:

  • Tendon Regeneration
    By recapitulating the natural environment of tissues through use of materials, cells and biochemical cues, it is possible to regenerate tendon tissue. Our electrospun fiber matrices are developed to provide a biomimetic environment to house and deliver cells and biologic factors to improve healing and regeneration.
  • Nerve Regeneration
    The lab focuses on the development of conducting, degradable polymers for the regeneration of nerve tissue. The slow regenerative nature of nerve tissue poses particular challenges to the clinical world as nerve injuries onset by pain, trauma, and/or degeneration rarely heal to suitable functional conditions. The lab develops, characterizes, and tests conducting polymeric scaffolds in conjunction with electrical stimulation techniques and stem-cell strategies to enhance the rate and efficacy of nerve tissue regeneration.
  • Bone Regeneration
    The lab aims to utilize cellulose, the most abundant biopolymer, to serve as a mechanically competent platform for bone regeneration. The lab has been successful in creating a mechanically competent cellulosic scaffold platform to serve as a material for bone regeneration. The combination of natural polymers with micro and nano- scale features enhanced the regenerative abilities of the scaffolds both in vitro and in vivo. Current investigations aim to improve the properties of these natural polymeric materials.
  • Drug Delivery
    The lab is developing multiple drug delivery systems using degradable polymeric micro/nanostructured vehicles. Targeted delivery of therapeutics for prolonged drug therapy systems and treatment of cancer is of particular interest. A novel drug delivery platform seeking to mimic the tissue invasion strategy of the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes in order to treat cancers of various types has shown optimistic results. These drug delivery systems achieve monodispersed drug delivery in solid tumors to combat geometric drug resistance within certain regions of tumors which are distant from tumor vasculature and thus receive little to no drug.

Lorenzo Laboratory

Lorenzo lab

Sandy Jastrzebski
Research Associate I

Judy Kalinowski
Research Associate I

Contact Us


The Lorenzo laboratory studies the role of the immune system in bone biology and maintains two ongoing projects. The first involves the origins of the cells that become osteoclasts, the only cells that can efficiently resorb (remove) bone. We have found, using a variety of genetic models, that we can specifically label either osteoclast precursor cells or mature osteoclasts with fluorescent proteins. This allows us to track the development of osteoclasts in mice. We used these models to define whether osteoclast originate from bone marrow resident cells or circulating cells. We found that during normal development (homeostasis) osteoclasts originate from bone marrow resident cells. However, when bone is perturbed by either a fracture or inflammation osteoclast originate to a significant degree from circulating cells. We are currently performing experiments to define the mechanisms that osteoclast precursor cells use to become osteoclasts during homeostasis, fracture repair or inflammation.

In a second project we are studying the role that protease activated receptor 1 (PAR1) protein, which is expressed on osteoclast precursor cells but not mature osteoclasts, has on osteoclast function during inflammation. We have found that in homeostasis PAR1 has a minimal role in osteoclast formation. However, in inflammatory states PAR1 inhibits osteoclast formation and function. We are currently examining the mechanism by which PAR1 regulates osteoclast development during inflammation.

Nukavarapu Laboratory


Syam P. Nukavarapu, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Orthopaedic Surgery
Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Associate Professor, Materials Science and Engineering

Hyun Kim
Graduate Student

Ming-Yeah Hu
Undergraduate Student

Katherine Russo
Undergraduate Student

Quinn Shields
Undergraduate Student

Contact Us


The Nukavarapu Laboratory develops orthopaedic biomaterials for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Dr. Nukavarapu’s research efforts focus on bone, cartilage and bone-cartilage defect repair/regeneration. His laboratory has made significant contributions towards the discovery and development of novel biomaterial composites and engineered graft designs. These include (i) Engineered cartilage-template for bone regeneration, (ii) Oxygen-tension controlled matrix system for segmental bone defect repair, and (iii) Gradient porous scaffold platform to approach complex tissue repair, such as the bone-cartilage interface. Novel biodegradable matrix designs have allowed the group to investigate the effect of controlled local micro-environment in terms of the matrix physical and structural cues and how they aid in tissue regeneration.

Pilbeam-Choudhary Laboratory

plibeam lab

Carol C. Pilbeam, MD, Ph.D.
Professor of Medicine and Orthopaedics
Director, MD/Ph.D. Combined Degree Program

Dharam Choudhary, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Surgery

Shilpa Choudhary, Ph.D.
Research Associate I

Trisha Kwarko
2nd Year Medical Student, Class of 2020

Contact Us


The Pilbeam-Choudhary Laboratory studies the regulation of bone resorption and formation with the ultimate goal of providing improved therapies for diseases that cause bone loss and fracture. The lab has been NIH funded since 1993. We have excellent resources for both in vitro and in vivo research and an outstanding environment for bone research due to the support and intellectual contribution of colleagues in diverse areas of skeletal biology. We have made significant contributions to understanding the role of prostaglandins and cyclooxygenase 2, the enzyme responsible for prostaglandin production, in bone. We discovered a prostaglandin-dependent factor that inhibits the ability of parathyroid hormone (PTH) to stimulate bone formation. PTH is the major hormone regulating calcium metabolism in the body, and intermittent PTH is the only FDA-approved anabolic therapy for osteoporosis. The inhibitor, identified as serum amyloid A (SAA), explains the long-standing question of why intermittent PTH is anabolic and continuous PTH causes bone loss. Our studies in aging mice show that SAA makes a significant contribution to the inflammation that causes age-related bone loss and this is now a major focus of the lab.

Sanjay Laboratory

Sanjay lab

Archana Sanjay, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Laura Doherty
Graduate Student DMD/Ph.D. Program

Contact Us


The Sanjay laboratory has made significant contributions to the understanding of osteoclast biology and the influence of this cell to bone resorption. Dr. Sanjay’s group has examined signaling events regulated by PI3K kinase a major effector downstream that regulates cell proliferation and differentiation. Her work established that, in bone cells, Cbl an adaptor protein binds and regulates PI3K activity. Skeletal analysis of mouse models established by her group showed that activation of PI3K in bone cells prevents the bone loss in ovariectomized mice, a model of experimental postmenopausal osteoporosis. Dr. Sanjay has investigated the role of signaling proteins in fracture healing. A critical aspect of the fracture healing process begins with the expansion of periosteal cells that occurs immediately after fracture. One of the more remarkable outcomes of her research that was recently reported relates to the extraordinary expansion of periosteal cells after bone fracture in mutant mice in which PI3K signaling is increased. Thus, in contrast to most loss of function models, this gain of function mice provided a novel opportunity to investigate positive mechanisms of periosteal expansion during injury, which currently remains undefined.

UConn Spinal Research Laboratory

Moss lab

Isaac L. Moss, MD CM, MASc, FRCSC
Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Neurosurgery

Judy Kalinowski
Research Assistant

Nicolas Mancini
Medical Student Research Associate

Contact Us


As a spinal surgeon, Dr. Moss has dedicated his career to the treatment of patients with spinal pathology to alleviate pain and improve function in a safe, efficient, and effective manner. Despite significant advancements in the field of spinal surgery, there is still room for improvement in the approach to many pathologic entities. Thus, Dr. Moss’s laboratory focuses its basic science research efforts on the development of biologics treatments to prevent and/or treat degeneration of the intervertebral disc in a minimally invasive and/or non-surgical manner. The lab employs both in vitro and in vivo preclinical models of disc degeneration to study pathology and evaluate novel treatments. Projects involve utilization advanced of advance imaging techniques, such as atomic force microscopy, to gain a better understanding of the structural, biomechanical and biochemical changes in the disc extracellular matrix associated with progressive degeneration. The lab also investigates the efficacy of growth factors, scaffold and cells for intervertebral disc regeneration. Specifically, they have demonstrated in both in vitro and in vivo studies that platelet derived growth factor (PDGF) can slow progression of degeneration by inhibiting disc cells apoptosis and promoting functional metabolism. Medical students, post-graduate fellows, and orthopaedic residents all participate in research efforts.