Defense Department funds research on rogue bone growth

September 26, 2013

Arthur Nead
Phone: 504-247-1443


Dr. Jeffrey Gimble, adjunct professor in Tulane University’s Center for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine, is studying the causes of heterotopic ossification. Photograph by Paula Burch-Celentano.

Soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with injuries to extremities suffer a high incidence—greater than 60 percent—of bone forming in soft tissue where it normally would not occur. This condition, known as heterotopic ossification, causes limitation of motion, joint pain, fever and swelling. The Department of Defense is funding a $962,059, three-year, multi-site investigation to find the potential causes of heterotopic ossification.

“The project will compare serum samples collected over a one-year period after injury in military and civilian orthopaedic patients at risk for heterotopic ossification,” says Dr. Jeffrey Gimble, the study’s principal investigator and adjunct professor in Tulane University’s Center for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine.

Serum samples from military patients will be provided by Drs. Thomas Davis, Jonathan Forsberg and Eric Elster at the Naval Medical Research Center, Silver Spring, MD and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD. Samples from civilians will be provided by Drs. Vinod Dasa, Peter Krause, Andrew King and Olivia Lee at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center—New Orleans.

“The goals of the grant are to evaluate the proteome—the entire set of proteins—in the serum from patients with orthopaedic injuries and surgery. The study will use mass spectroscopy and cell-based methods to determine if there are secreted proteins in serum that can promote heterotopic ossification,” says Gimble.

Proteomic mass spectroscopy of the samples will be done by Dr. Michael Freitas at the Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Proteomic Core. Tulane will oversee the studies and perform biochemical and cell-based assays of samples.
“This study addresses a significant health risk for injured veterans and could clarify the processes leading to heterotopic ossification,” says Bruce Bunnell, director of the Tulane Center for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine. “The identification of proteins involved in this disorder should provide new targets for effective therapies.”

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000