Research and Projects

Mechanical Loading May impact Tendon Properties Through Nonstructural Mechanisms

Idaho IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) 2019-2020 Academic Year Research Fellowship1

After helping produce strong evidence pointing towards a correlation between impaired neonatal locomotion and changes in tendon mechanical properties of neonatal rats, I plan to spend this academic year working to identify the underlying mechanisms that may be responsible for changes we have observed. This endeavor is supported through an Academic Year Research Fellowship through INBRE and allows me to dedicate an entire year to preparing and executing a thorough investigation into a myriad of possible underlying mechanisms.

With my background in imaging neonatal tendon structures using confocal microscopy, I will first work to understand and identify the complex relationships between tendon crimp properties (i.e. distance, amplitude, width, and orientation), crimp development, and the associated mechanotransductive pathways.

Elucidating the underlying mechanisms responsible for observed changes in tendon mechanical properties following altered locomotion is essential to understanding how functional tendons develop, and has implications for both tissue engineering and regenerative tissue therapies.

Altered Neonatal Locomotion Impacts Weight-bearing Tendon Function, But Not Collagen Morphology

Idaho IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) Undergraduate Research Fellow1

I spent Summer 2019 as an INBRE Undergraduate Research Fellow. Over the course of the Summer, I contributed to significant progress on a project exploring the effects of altered locomotion on neonatal rat Achilles and tail tendons. My role on the project included leading tendon imaging on an Olympus FluoView 1000 Confocal Microscope, running comparative image analysis, and analyzing mechanical testing data from Achilles and tail tendons.

This fellowship concluded with a poster at the Statewide INBRE 2019 Summer Conference where I placed 3rd in the Poster Presentation Competition for Undergraduate Fellows and 3rd overall in the Fast Pitch Science Competition (A competition to present your research in 3 minutes or less).

I am presenting the results of this Summer project in poster form at the National Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting in Philadelphia October 16-19th 2019. Additionally, I am attending the conference as second author on a Doctoral Candidate's oral presentation.

Right: Statewide INBRE 2019 Summer Conference Awards Banquet (top). Neonatal rat Achilles tendon disscetion (bottom). Photos courtesy of Jerome Poulos Photography

Understanding the Effects of Mechanical Stimuli on Tendon Development

Idaho STEM Action Center Research Fellowship

Following my experience as an INBRE High School to College Transition Trainee, the Idaho STEM Action Center awarded me a Research Fellowship for Spring 2019. During the Spring, I plan to continue contributing to our understanding of the effects of mechanical stimuli on tendon development, with particular focus on the effects of microgravity as a form of mechanical unloading.

Whereas most astrobiomedical research has focused on muscle and bone, this project will examine tendons. I know that this project will extend well beyond Spring 2019 and will require me to attain an array of research techniques ranging from advanced microscopy to data processing to wide-spread collaboration. This investigation is the focal point of my GCSP portfolio.

Analyzing Collagen Structure in Developing Neonatal Tendon

In Summer 2018 I was given the opportunity to work in Dr. Nathan Schiele's Tendon Engineering Laboratory in a collaborative research experience between INBRE and the Idaho STEM Action Center. Accordingly, I helped lead a project analyzing how collagen structure develops in neonatal rat tail tendons from postnatal day (P) 1 to P10. Using second harmonic generation (SHG) microscopy to visualize the collagen fivers in tendon, we compared developing collagen structure.

Tendons are collagen-rich musculoskeletal tissues fundamental to locomotion. Unfortunately, tendons are susceptible to injury and have poor healing capacity resulting in long-term functional deficiencies. This motivates the need for engineered replacement tissues. However, tissue engineering strategies are challenged by the limited information on how the collagen structure of tendon develops, particularly on what effect mechanical stimuli has on general tendon development.

The Summer concluded with a poster presentation at the Statewide INBRE 2018 Summer Conference where I placed 1st in the Poster Presentation Competition for the STEM Trainees Category.

Above: "Crimp" collagen structure of P1 neonatal rat tail tendon from Analyzing Collagen Structure in Developing Neonatal Tendons

1 The project described was supported by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Grant #P20GM10340