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Projects

NIH-Funded COBRE Targeted Research Projects




Hugo Sanabria, Ph.D.

SC TRIMH Junior Investigator

SC TRIMH Project 1: “Modulation and inhibition of the osteoclast-specific V-ATPAse for bone resorption”

Hugo Sanabria, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, serves as the Leader for Project 1 “Modulation and inhibition of the osteoclast-specific V-ATPAse for bone resorption.” As the Principal Investigator of the Single Molecule Biophysics Laboratory at Clemson, Dr. Sanabria’s research focuses in the study of structure, dynamics and function of biomolecules using state of the art fluorescence spectroscopic tools. His work at the molecular level has provided new insights in mechanisms of biomolecular interactions, specifically regulation of synaptic proteins and other biomolecules that hold potential use as therapeutic targets. For this SC TRIMH study, Dr. Sanabria uses single-molecule Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) methods, that capture molecular dynamics spanning from subnanoseconds to seconds, to identify functional regions of the osteoclast-specific V-ATPAse. The overall goal of this work is to develop new therapeutic strategies to control bone loss and growth.




Yongren Wu, Ph.D.

SC TRIMH Junior Investigator
SC TRIMH Project 2: “Estrogen Effect on Beak Ligament Structure and Function in Thumb Basal Joint”

Yongren Wu, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering, is the Leader for Project 2 “Estrogen Effect on Beak Ligament Structure and Function in Thumb Basal Joint.” Osteoarthritis of the basal thumb joint is a significant cause of pain and suffering and socio-economic burden in the US. Despite extensive pathophysiological studies performed to date, the causes of the 10-20-fold increase in basal thumb joint osteoarthritis seen in post-menopausal women remains unclear. In this SC TRIMH study, Dr. Wu will examine morphological, mechanoelectrical, and biochemical changes of the beak ligament insertions in relationship to estrogen levels, and further determine the impact of beak ligament laxity/detachment on kinematics and local mechanical environment of the thumb basal joint. The overall goal of this work is to identify osteoarthritis at early onset and to develop therapeutic strategies to improve functional outcomes.

As Principal Investigator of the Orthopaedic Bioengineering Lab at Clemson, Dr. Wu’s research focuses on soft tissue and bone interface: 1) determining the structure-function relationship in the interface; 2) revealing the mechano-adaptive remodeling mechanism in the interface; 3) advancing strategies for better diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation.




Tong Ye, Ph.D.

SC TRIMH Junior Investigator
SC TRIMH Project 3: “Development of Nonlinear Endomicroscopy: Toward Assessing Articular Cartilage Repair in Vivo”

Tong Ye, PhD, Associate Professor of Bioengineering, is the Leader for Project 3 “Development of Nonlinear Endomicroscopy: Toward Assessing Articular Cartilage Repair in Vivo.” As Principal Investigator of the Nano and Functional Imaging Lab at Clemson, Dr. Ye’s laboratory develops novel superresolution optical microscopy (stimulated emission depletion), nonlinear optical microscopy (multiphoton fluorescence and second harmonics 3D tissue imaging) and functional optical imaging (intravital imaging, 3D calcium imaging, 3D cell and particle tracking, and laser speckle contrast imaging) techniques that allow us to visualize heretofore unseen structures and events.

In this SC TRIMH study, Dr. Ye will determine whether two-photon excitation autofluorescence and second harmonic generation imaging can provide sensitive measures to assess the healthiness of articular cartilage and to build a compact endomicroscopy system for clinical use. The ultimate goal of this work is to provide orthopaedic surgeons the ability to identify the structural definition of cartilage tissue, at both surface and sub-surface levels, and the ability to assess living versus dead tissue at the time of arthroscopy.




Melinda Harman, Ph.D.

SC TRIMH Junior Investigator
SC TRIMH Project 4: “Soft Tissue Conditions During Total Knee Replacement”

Melinda Harman, PhD, Associate Professor of Bioengineering, is the Leader for Project 4 “Soft Tissue Conditions During Total Knee Replacement”. As Principal Investigator of the Laboratory for Retrieval Research and Reprocessing of Medical Devices at Clemson, Dr. Harman’s research is based in: i) Performance of Orthopaedic Devices (analysis of retrieved implants and devices, preclinical testing and simulations of joint replacements, examination of bearing surfaces and bone-biomaterial interfaces), ii) Innovation for Reprocessing and Reuse of Medical Devices (medical device design, optimization for reprocessing, verification and validation of processing protocols, reusable technology for low-resource settings) and iii) Translational Orthopaedic Research (implant registries, post-marketing surveillance, musculoskeletal biomechanics and functional assessments, and development of novel surgical instrumentation and operative techniques).

Unfortunately, a significant portion of patients receiving total knee replacement, still experience pain and mobility issues post-surgery. In this SC TRIMH study, Dr. Harman seeks to develop a new computational testing platform to assess the interoperative condition of soft tissues during implant surgery. This system will aid surgical planning and rehabilitation and will be used to elucidate the underlying biomechanical mechanisms leading to instability and poor function following total knee replacement.




Fei Peng, Ph.D.

SC TRIMH Junior Investigator
SC TRIMH Project 5: “Development and Validation of Embedded Micro Wireless Strain Sensor Array for In Vivo Characterization of Contact Stress Distribution in Hip Replacement”

Fei Peng, PhD, Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, is the Leader for Project 5 “Development and Validation of Embedded Micro Wireless Strain Sensor Array for In Vivo Characterization of Contact Stress Distribution in Hip Replacement.” Dr. Peng's current research projects are focused on additive manufacturing of ceramics, sensor materials for clinical surgeries, thermal and environmental barrier ceramic coatings, bioactive and biocompatible thin film and coatings, high-temperature kinetics and microstructure, ceramic nanofibers and composites, smart materials, sintering of ultra-high temperature ceramics, and the high-temperature oxidation resistance of borides and carbides.

The incorrect selection implant components used in total hip arthroplasty often leads to excessive edge loading of the acetabular cup liner of the insert, excessive wear and potential dislocation, and new replacement surgery. In this SC TRIMH study, Dr. Peng will develop micro strain sensors embedded in the acetabular cup liner of the total hip replacement implant for assessment and selection of hip replacement components to be used for the surgery. The contact patch data generated during the intra-operational assessment should lead to improved device selection and improved surgical outcomes for total hip replacement surgeries.


NIH Pilot Project 1: ““The role of kinase signaling in musculoskeletal differentiation and maintenance”

Ann C. Foley, PhD, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, is Leader for NIH Pilot Project 1 “The role of kinase signaling in musculoskeletal differentiation and maintenance.” As Principal Investigator of the Cardiac Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at Clemson, Dr. Foley’s research uses cellular biology concepts to inform her research to (i) create newly engineered stem cell lineages, (ii) identify bioreporters involved in tissue development and maintenance and (iii) study mesoderm/substrate interactions leading to tissue specific development.

For this SC TRIMH study, Dr. Foley will study factors contributing to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s Disease (PD); both or which involve progressive muscle wasting, resulting in impaired ability to move, speak, swallow and chew. Specifically, Dr. Foley will examine the role of Map3k7 [a kinase that (i) interacts with multiple important intracellular signaling cascades that promote muscle growth and differentiation and (ii) mediates cross talk between cellular signals that result in inflammation and cell death in muscle loss] in muscle formation and maintenance. The PI seeks to determine the mechanism by which Map3k7 drives motor neuron differentiation by (i) activating or repressing its expression in human and murine pluripotent stem cells, (ii) assessing motor neuron differentiation and the role of inflammatory pathways, (iii) and creating a transgenic mouse model with conditional expression of Map3k7 in motor neurons and other lineages. Additionally, the study seeks to determine the mechanism by which Map3k7 and kinase TKA1 activation drives skeletal muscle formation. The ultimate goal of this work is to devise new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of muscle wasting diseases.


NIH Pilot Project 2: “Developmental Origins of Sex-specific Differences in Craniofacial Bone Shape”

Kara Powder, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, is the Leader for NIH Pilot Project 2 “Developmental Origins of Sex-specific Differences in Craniofacial Bone Shape”. The goal of the Powder lab is to understand the genomic and developmental origins of diversity. The lab uses cichlid fishes which have undergone an extraordinary adaptive radiation. A hallmark of this radiation is their unparalleled range of craniofacial morphologies that correlate with their feeding mechanism (e.g. algae scraping versus suction feeding).

In this SC TRIMH study, Dr. Powder will assess the role of the sex hormones estradiol and progesterone in both sex specific bone shape and species-specific changes in sex differences. Specific Aim 1 will test the hypotheses (1) that sex-specific differences in craniofacial shape become more distinct with age and (2) that different species of cichlids will show differing degrees of sexual dimorphism. Specific Aim 2 will test the hypothesis that in vivo manipulation of estrogen and progesterone signaling during windows critical for skeletal patterning will result in subtle, but distinct, changes in the craniofacial skeleton. The goal of this work is to better understand sex-specific differences in craniofacial development and the role of sex hormones in formation of the craniofacial skeleton.


Clemson Funded SC TRIMH Pilot Funded Grants


In its first year, the South Carolina Center for Translational Research Improving Musculoskeletal Health awarded $125,000 to help grow health-related research and extend the community of researchers investigating musculoskeletal projects.

The three types of one-year grants that were funded are: Fast Forward grants, Discovery grants, and Mentored Investigator grants.

Fast Forward Grants generate critical preliminary data for a planned submission or resubmission of an extramural grant application within six months. The awardees of the $10,000 Fast Forward grants are:




Discovery Grants provide strategic support to explore the feasibility of projects that might become collaborative R01s, which are National Institute of Health Research Project Grants or center grants. The $25,000 Discovery grant was awarded to:




Mentored Investigator Grants provide mentored research experiences for junior investigators who may become candidates to replace current COBRE (Centers of Research Excellence) junior investigators. The $25,000 Mentored Investigator grant awardees are: