Orthopaedic Research and Biotechnology Unit

Group leader

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The Orthopaedic Research and Biotechnology Unit aims to advance orthopaedic care through an improved understanding of bone diseases, bone healing and pharmaceutical therapies. Our high calibre team consists of orthopaedic surgeons, orthopaedic surgical fellows, research scientists and biomedical engineers.

Research achievements

We have enjoyed significant academic and grant success, with 11 dedicated research staff now working on a wide range of translational projects. Of the more than $3.8 million we have received in grants in the last 10 years, two have supported clinical trials of projects which began in the laboratory.

Professor Little pioneered the use of bisphosphonates in paediatric medicine and this work is now directly helping children within the Hospital. Our work in bisphosphonates has led to the development of one of our main research themes – optimisation of the anabolic (bone-forming) and catabolic (bone-resorbing) responses. We are currently achieving early success in combining local anabolic treatment with systemic bisphosphonate therapy.

We have developed models of the orthopaedic manifestations of Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), a common genetic disease affecting one in 3,000 children that can manifest as a variety of characteristic symptoms including the formation of tumours. We
have recently published studies looking at common orthopaedic conditions in these children, showing that dual problems in bone anabolism and bone catabolism may both contribute to the way NF1 affects bones.

We have developed new advanced genetic cell tracking models and have been able to show, for the first time, how muscle cells contribute to bone formation. This work has the potential to dramatically affect orthopaedic surgical practice and lead to new
innovations in bone tissue engineering.

Other emerging research directions include the collection of bone samples from surgical patients, with and without genetic bone disease, for the use in future research projects. We are also testing several compounds for their efficacy in the treatment of orthopaedic complications. These drugs have the potential to revolutionise orthopaedic medicine. We have established surgical models and high-tech scanning, histology, and molecular outcomes for testing these drugs.