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Presented By: Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical Engineering Seminar Series

Characterization of the roles of the immune system in intervertebral disc repair, with Sade W. Clayton, PhD

A speaker talking to a group of students in a classroom. A speaker talking to a group of students in a classroom.
A speaker talking to a group of students in a classroom.
The intervertebral disc (IVD) is an essential fibrocartilaginous joint in the spinal column that provides the shock absorption and weight distribution biomechanical properties of the spine. IVDs are complex, heterogeneous structures that are prone to cumulative damage overtime due to a limited regenerative capacity. The accrual of IVD injuries leads to IVD degeneration, which is associated with debilitating back pain. Successful healing of connective tissue injuries relies on temporally regulated immune cells that rapidly infiltrate damaged tissues and initiate regenerative cascades. These immune cells migrate into injured tissues and function as critical mediators of tissue regeneration and healing. However, the identity of these immune cell subtypes, their temporal coordination, and their effect on the IVD healing response after acute injury remain understudied. The objective of this study is to prevent IVD degeneration by defining the role of infiltrating immune cells during the acute stages of IVD repair. The importance of immune cells in facilitating healing has been well characterized in many musculoskeletal (MSK) tissues, such as bone and muscle, where T lymphocytes have been shown to be critical mediators of repair, but their role in IVD healing is unknown. Preliminary data show an important regulation of Cd3+ T cells in the IVD healing response that varies with sex where 12 week C57BL6 female mice with recurring waves of T cell infiltration during the acute IVD repair stages show less degenerative changes post injury than aged matched males. Therefore, the hypothesis is that Cd3+T cells are essential for IVD healing in female mice. These studies will offer a targeted approach to modulate IVD repair by elucidating the sex-related differences in the types and temporal regulation of key immune cell subtypes important during IVD healing.


Dr. Sade Clayton is a Burroughs Wellcome Fund PDEP and Rita Levi- Montalcini Post-Doctoral Fellow in Regenerative Medicine in her third year of her training at Washington University in St. Louis in the Orthopaedic Surgery department. Her PhD thesis work was conducted in the Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham with Rosa Serra. There, she identified a novel signaling pathway utilized by TGFβ during spinal column formation with an emphasis on spinal fibrous tissue development in mouse and chick embryo models. Her postdoctoral work in the labs of Simon Tang and Lori Setton aims to determine the function of the immune system in the development and repair of the intervertebral discs of the spine using RNA transcriptomics, microscopy, and flow cytometry in mouse and humans.

A speaker talking to a group of students in a classroom. A speaker talking to a group of students in a classroom.
A speaker talking to a group of students in a classroom.

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