This summer, I conducted research for the Qin Lab in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in the Perelman School of Medicine. I have been assisting the post-doctoral fellows in their research for over a year, so working on my own project in this lab provided me with the direction and mentorship necessary for successful execution.
In the past, Qin lab has demonstrated that bone marrow mesenchymal stems cells (BMMSCs) at different anatomic regions possess distinct properties and functions. For my project, we hypothesized that the subchondral BMMSCs will have unique frequency, proliferative capacity, and differentiation ability than BMMSCs compared to other bone regions, such as diaphysis, metaphysis, and periosteum. First, I needed to create a procedure to isolate the subchondral BMMSCs from Col2-Cre Tomato mice (since Tomato signals label all MSCs and their offspring) without contamination from other cells. Then, after the stem cells were flushed out of the bone, I cultured the cells to determine their differentiation abilities and sectioned the paraffin-embedded bone fragments to ensure the cells had been flushed. Through isolating and characterizing MSCs from the subchondral bone area, it is possible to help to elucidate this issue and allow them to be used as a treatment due to their “familiarity” with the unique osteochondral junction environment.
After a few months of research, I have only scratched the surface on what can be accomplished through this project. In the coming months, I will continue to test cells in culture for their proliferation and multi-differentiation (osteogenic, chondrogenic, and adipogenic) abilities. BMMSCs isolated from diaphysis, metaphysis, and periosteum will be used as controls. I will also perform surgical destabilization of the medial meniscus (DMM) on the right knee of 3-month old WT mice to induce OA and analyze the bone fragments with confocal imagining to count the number of subchondral BMMSCs (Tomato+).
Conducting research in the Qin lab has taught me medical research techniques that have allowed me to bridge the gap between the science that I have learned in my undergraduate courses and their practical medical applications. Likewise, working on an individual research project has allowed me to personally employ these techniques and procedures to explore characteristics of the subchondral BMMSCs and their potential use in future therapeutic research. Moreover, Dr. Qin has been an amazing mentor for me and has proven to me that working under her direction will permit me to successfully further my project.