Musculoskeletal Biology

Faculty selected as IPREP mentors
Matt Allen, Ph.D.
Matt Allen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Tel: 317-274-1283
Email: matallen@iupui.edu
Office: MS5045P
Our laboratory studies the tissue-level mechanisms responsible for musculoskeletal integrity in health and disease. We utilize numerous in vivo model systems to understand how disease and pharmaceutical intervention influence bone structure, cellular activity, tissue-level properties (such as mineralization, microdamage, collagen, hydration), and biomechanical properties. We study diseases/conditions such as osteoporosis, diabetes, osteoporosis imperfecta, chronic kidney disease, disuse, and aging using techniques such as imaging (CT, DXA, X-ray), histology (static and dynamic histomorphometry, microdamage), and mechanical testing (bending, compression, fatigue, reference point indentation). Our laboratory is funded by the NIH, NASA/NSBRI, and industry.
Lilian Plotkin, Ph.D.
Lilian Plotkin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Tel: 317-274-5317
Email: lplotkin@iupui.edu
Office: MS5045Q
The goal of Dr. Plotkin’s research is to understand the molecular mechanisms that are involved in the regulation of intracellular signaling in bone cells. In particular, she focuses on the role of connexins as regulators of intracellular signaling activated by pharmacotherapeutic, hormonal and mechanical stimuli in cultured cells and in animal models utilizing in vitro techniques, including tissue culture, analysis of cell apoptosis, protein chemistry, and molecular biology. She has generated and characterized the bone phenotype of mice lacking Cx43 in osteoblasts and osteocytes. Using measurements of protein and mRNA levels in bone preparations by Western blotting/ELISA and qPCR, respectively, circulating markers of bone formation and resorption by ELISA, bone metabolism by dynamic and static histomorphometry, and biomechanical properties by femoral 3-point bending and vertebral compression, as well as ex vivo culture of bone and bone marrow cells. As a URM (Hispanic) investigator herself, she is well aware of the challenges other URM have in science. She served as a co-mentor to one of our previous IPREP Fellows, Cynthia Morales.
Uma Sankar, Ph.D.
Uma Sankar, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Tel: 317-274-7870
Email: usankar@iupui.edu
Office: UL1123E
The Sankar lab focuses on the role of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CaMK) signaling in mammalian development and disease. They recently discovered novel roles for calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase kinase 2 (CaMKK2) in both the anabolic and catabolic pathways of bone remodeling. The long-term objective is to understand how the CaMKK2-CaMK signaling cascade integrates with the endocrine and paracrine mechanisms regulating skeletal homeostasis. They also investigate CaMKK2 inhibition as a “dual hit” strategy to control cancer cell growth while protecting bone from androgen-deprivation therapy-mediated osteoporosis in patients with advanced-stage prostate cancer. Dr. Sankar has prior experience in mentoring under-represented minority (URM) students as well as trainees with disabilities. Last year, she a brilliant Biology major undergraduate student who was a URM student. She graduated in May 2016 and is employed in a health-related profession. She currently mentors a highly talented postdoctoral fellow who has profound disabilities in hearing and speech. They received a Diversity/Disability sudplemental grant from the National Institutes of Health to support training. Since 2007, Dr. Sankar has trained 20 undergraduate, 8 medical, and 4 graduate students as well as 6 postdoctoral fellows. Her trainees have authored or co-authored manuscripts and many have advanced to dental, medical and graduate schools nation-wide. Her trainees have also won awards at poster competitions at the national and university level.
William Thompson, Ph.D.
William Thompson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, and Anatomy and Cell Biology
Tel: 317-278-9619
Email: thompwil@iu.edu
Office: CF322A
The Thompson laboratory focuses on the influence of mechanical loading on bone cell signaling and differentiation. Dr. Thompson studies undifferentiated bone mesenchymal stem cells and terminally differentiated osteocytes. The lab uses molecular and cellular approaches to identify signaling nodes responsive to physical cues to promote osteogenesis in mesenchymal stem cells and to enhance anabolic signals in osteocytes. Studies involve in vitro responses to mechanical stimulation (e.g. membrane strain and low-intensity vibration) and in vivo adaptation to mechanical loading (e.g. low-intensity vibration and disuse models). The lab uses techniques for assessing anabolic and catabolic responses in bone tissue and cell culture, including molecular (e.g. qPCR, western blotting, serum/media ELISAs), cellular (e.g. RNAi, shRNA, immunocytochemistry) and histologic (e.g. bone sectioning, staining, immunohistochemistry, TEM).
Tersa Zimmers, Ph.D.
Tersa Zimmers, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Surgery
Tel: 317-278-7289
Email: zimmerst@iu.edu
Office: R3 C518
The long-term goal of the Zimmers laboratory is to define the pathophysiological and molecular basis of muscle and fat wasting in order to identify and treat patients at risk of cachexia and improve outcomes. After an initial focus on basic science studies in mouse models and tissue culture, the lab has now moved into correlative translational studies and is initiating therapeutic clinical trials. Using a combination of tissue culture, genetically modified mice, mouse tumor models and human patient samples, the lab has identified three targetable pathways leading to muscle wasting—the IL6/STAT3, myostatin/SMAD and SHH/GLI pathways. The pathways are relevant to muscle loss in cancer, burn injury, trauma and sepsis. The laboratory has expertise in muscle biology, transgenic and knockout mouse models, tumor models, muscle histopathology and cell biology, gene transfer, translational research using human samples. Dr. Zimmers has trained multiple under-represented minority students and fellows, including 4 high school students, 5 undergraduate students, and one post-doctoral fellow. The majority earned awards, external funding or both in recognition of their outstanding research accomplishments in her laboratory.
Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program
IUPUI
Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research
755 W. Michigan Street
University Library, UL 1140
Indianapolis, IN 46202-5159
Tel:317-274-2877
Fax:317-274-1024
Email:IPREP@iupui.edu
Hours: Monday-Friday, 9:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.