The Comparative Orthopaedics Laboratory seeks funds to enhance four project goals.
A. An Endowment for Orthopedic Graduate Student Stipends
The need for stipend support to fund doctoral and postdoctoral candidates in the Comparative Orthopaedics Laboratory is an acute and recurring concern. Support for these key individuals represents an investment in people that will garner high quality returns for animal and human musculoskeletal health. An endowment would ensure a stipend for several graduate students per year and increase our ability to attract high quality PhD candidates with DVM, MD, and baccalaureate degrees. These doctoral students are currently funded only through grant and gift money that is often variable and inadequate to fund both the student's stipend and the research questions the candidate is pursuing. This represents a recurring deficiency we aim to minimize by developing an $850,000 endowment.
B. New Systems for Gene Enhanced Joint Repair
The introduction of genetic coding sequence to cells destined for cartilage and joint repair is a logical transition from the use of simple recombinant proteins to bolster transplanted cell function in the joint. Previous gene transfer studies largely relied on inactivated viruses to deliver these genes to the cells composing joint structures. Issues of safety, difficulties in propagating adequate viral vector numbers, and immune reaction to the vectors have made the need for nonviral techniques in gene therapy vital to its further development and entry into mainstream medical practice. The Comparative Orthopaedics Laboratory has previous experience using many of the viral vectors and maintains considerable enthusiasm for the concept of gene-enhanced joint repair. Current project areas propose the use of lipids and other small molecule mechanisms to deliver genes to joints, avoiding viral vectors, and improving not only the short-term response but the ability to redose as required. Ultimately, these projects will mean permanent repair of joint surface injury and continued joint function. Study of these new vectors will cost $70,000 per year, with a three year total expense of $210,000.
C. Unraveling the molecular complexities of OCD in Horses and Man
Previous studies of the cause of OCD have begun to direct the investigators toward a broadly encompassing study of the genetic and molecular events causing poor cartilage development in growing animals and children. This project area heavily relies on gene chip microarray technology to identify, prioritize, and track key players in aberrant cartilage development. The laboratory currently uses gene chip equipment at the University of Rochester in New York. With the growing number of projects aimed at defining these cartilage controlling genes and their dysfunction, our laboratory is moving forward to establish a Center for the Study of Musculoskeletal Genetic Disease. The total cost to equip this Center is $304,000.
D. Endowed Chairs in Orthopaedics
Our long term goals include increasing research faculty numbers by: 1) establishing endowed chairs in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine, and Comparative and Functional Genomics; and 2) renaming the laboratory by an endowment to establish the Cornell Center for Comparative Molecular Orthopaedics.
Endowed chairs and centers would fall under the formal guidelines of the University that stipulate a $3 million and $5 million minimum, respectively. Fund-raising for these program areas was launched in the spring of 2004.