The Washington University Musculoskeletal Research Center (MRC) was formally established in 2009 as the home for Washington University researchers interested in musculoskeletal biology and medicine. The Center is administered by a partnership between the Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and Internal Medicine, Division of Bone and Mineral Diseases. 

The main goals of the MRC are to:

  • support and enhance research on the musculoskeletal system
  • foster collaborations within its research community
  • mentor early-stage investigators and attract investigators from other disciplines
  • train the next generation of musculoskeletal investigators

Two grants provide support for the infrastructure and training missions of the MRC, the Resource Based Center for Musculoskeletal Biology and Medicine (RCMBM, P30 AR074992), directed by Dr. Matthew Silva; and the Skeletal Disorders Training Program (SDTP, T32 AR060719), directed by Dr. Roberto Civitelli.  Additional support is provided by the Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and Internal Medicine, and by the Dean of the Medical School.

Our Research Community currently consists of 96 investigators. There are 84 Washington University faculty from 15 Departments:  Biomedical Engineering, Cell Biology & Physiology, Developmental Biology, Internal Medicine (Divisions of Bone & Mineral Diseases, Cardiology, Geriatrics & Nutritional Science, Infectious Diseases, Oncology, Nephrology, and Rheumatology), Mechanical Engineering, Neurology, Neuroscience, Neurosurgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, Pathology and Immunology, Pediatrics, Program in Physical Therapy, Radiation Oncology, Radiology, and Surgery. In addition, there are 12 Affiliate Members from six non-WashU institutions:  Saint Louis University, Univ. Missouri-Columbia, Ohio State Univ., Univ. Illinois-Urbana Champaign, Univ. Nebraska, and Univ. Virginia.

The MRC operates through four main activity areas:

  1. Cores and Services

Core A –Administration  

Provides the overall leadership and management of the Research Core Facilities, integrates Core Center Components and Activities; communicates with stake holders (Newsletter, Website, Twitter/X, LinkedIn); coordinates Core Center Activities with other WashU Programs.

Core B – Musculoskeletal Structure and Strength

Provides critical support to members of the Research Base to enable rigorous utilization of methods to quantify morphology and mechanical properties from musculoskeletal tissues (bone, tendon, muscle, disc).  Services include x-ray based skeletal imaging and biomechanical testing.

Core C –Musculoskeletal Histology and Morphometry

Provides histological services for the identification and analysis of molecular phenotypes of our target tissues, bone, cartilage, disc, muscle, tendon and ligament, in developing and adult mice. Services include preparation of tissues and tissue sections (paraffin, frozen, plastic); specialized staining for musculoskeletal tissues; training in the techniques of sectioning, immunohistochemistry, RNA in situ hybridization and histomorphometry. Confocal microscopy is also supported.

Core D –  Animal Models of Bone and Joint Injury & Disease

Supports the generation of models and reagents to study fracture healing, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in mice. These include models for physical and surgical knee injury, and models to induce inflammation, as well as repository of joint tissues and reagents to induce systemic inflammation (RA models). Supports the evaluation of functional outcomes in mice using measures of in vivo behavior and pain.

2. Training and Education

The MRC offers a variety of educational opportunities for graduate students, post-doctoral trainees and faculty interested in musculoskeletal research.  These include lectures, namely, the Skeletal Biology and Pathophysiology Mini-Course, focused on didactic lectures on the normal and pathobiology of the musculoskeletal system; Summer Educational Seminars, focused on technologies available in the MRC, their application and data interpretation; and workshops focused on Rigor and Reproducibility.

The Institutional SDTP (T32) offers mentored research training for 3 graduate students and 3 post-doctoral fellows each year in five areas of musculoskeletal research: Musculoskeletal Biomechanics, Skeletal Development and Regeneration, The Skeleton and Other Systems, Skeletal Immunology, and Tumor-Skeleton Interactions.  Trainees can draw from an interdisciplinary pool of 28 mentors, representing 9 Departments and Programs at Washington University, all members of the MRC Research Community.

3. Enrichment Program

In addition to the annual Musculoskeletal Symposium, one major research seminar series and two journal clubs/discussion groups are also organized under the aegis of the MRC.  The weekly Avioli Musculoskeletal Research Seminars represent the main venue for new research by MRC faculty members and senior trainees, as well as invited guest speakers.  Journal clubs are focused on complementary research areas pertinent to the musculoskeletal system; including the Experimental Skeletal Biology Journal Club/Data Club, led by Dr. Veis; and the Mechanobiology Journal Club, organized by Dr. Tang. Opportunities for clinical education are numerous, via the weekly Skeletal Health Multidisciplinary Case Conference  and Orthopedic Grand Rounds and Core Lectures

4. Development Program

This program consists of initiatives aimed at fostering new research directions by MRC investigators; reaching out to and attracting investigators from other disciplines; providing support for trainees as they transition to independence; and facilitating the translation of basic findings to clinical research. 

The MRC funds three Pilot & Feasibility Grants per year ($40,000/yr for 1-2 years).  The scope of this grant program is to support new investigators without major independent funding; or established investigators in other fields committing their skills to musculoskeletal research; or established musculoskeletal investigators embarking in a new direction in our discipline; or post-doctoral fellow as they transition to independence. One of the P&F grants each year is supported by a gift of the Lottie C. Hardy Charitable Trust.

Organizational Chart

Our websites:

Or contact:

Kamilla McGhee | P30 Core Coordinator

Linda Mudd | SDTP Administrator, 314.454.8744