The Delaware Center for Musculoskeletal Research (DCMR) will support basic and preclinical research on the central theme of musculoskeletal health and disorders, from the level of the entire body to the molecule, with an emphasis on the mechanisms by which physical and biological cues influence tissue structure and normal function, dysfunction, and potential therapeutic interventions. A strong Administrative Core will maximize the impact of the DCMR by successfully leading the administrative and fiscal operation of the Center and by supporting complex scientific operations that are interwoven within the Center and draw on resources available through various centers across the University of Delaware and beyond (Aim 1).
Excellence and career development of the Project Leaders is critical to the success of the Center, as they conduct impactful musculoskeletal research within the Center and as future independent investigators. Thus, the Administrative Core will also implement a comprehensive mentoring and career development plan for Project Leaders that complements formal departmental mentoring and will enable them to launch successful research programs and attain independent investigator status (Aim 2).
The Administrative Core will also work to expand the impact of the DCMR through establishing a collaborative interdisciplinary community, supporting a Pilot grant program, hiring new faculty, and retaining faculty (Aim 3).
Finally, the Core will establish a rigorous evaluation program to assess progress toward Center milestones, using best practices in program evaluation and led by an expert internal evaluator (Aim 4). Added to the input of internal and external advisory committees, evaluation data will be used to continuously improve the Center and ensure that it is achieving its overarching goal: to accelerate fundamental and preclinical musculoskeletal research and contribute to a comprehensive basic-to-clinical research pipeline that will substantially reduce the burden of musculoskeletal disorders.
Unraveling the interconnected responses at multiple levels will require an integrated application of advanced biomechanical and bioimaging techniques with preclinical (animal) and biophysical (explant) model systems. This requirement is not easily met using standard instrumentation typically available in research centers, and state-of-the-art equipment, technical expertise to use this equipment, and scientific expertise across multiple platforms to guide the design and application of these techniques is needed.
The goal of the Multiscale Assessments Research Core is to maximize the success and impact of DCMR Research Project, Project Leaders, and other researchers by providing a Research Core that includes state-of the-art equipment to apply and assess physical cues and biological signals. The Core will use a gateway organizational framework that is built around interlinked scientific leadership, technical expertise, user training, and partnerships with existing collaborative Centers.
The Research Core will provide, develop, and support multiscale mechanical loading and measurement capability, expertise, and training (Aim 1); provide, develop, and support preclinical and biophysical models, including assessment capability, expertise, and training (Aim 2); and enhance the existing Bioimaging Center (Aim 3). The Research Core will obtain new state-of-the-art equipment, including the construction of new instruments to apply physical cues and molecular signals to living systems and the purchase of advanced instrumentation for in vivo imaging. The Research Core will be housed in a newly renovated 1400 sq. ft. lab space adjacent to the vivarium. The coordination of musculoskeletal resources and expertise in the DCMR Multiscale Assessments Research Core will accelerate the research pace for Project Leaders and Center users. The use of Core’s resources for research questions at the interface of engineering and life sciences will have a synergistic effect that will strengthen UD’s biomedical research infrastructure and impact.