Bahney Musculoskeletal Regeneration Lab

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Orthopaedic Trauma Institute
2550 23rd Street, Building 9, 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA, 94110
Tel: (415) 206-8812

Our Work
Our research aims to develop novel therapies for the treatment of musculoskeletal diseases and injuries. Specifically, I believe we can drive improved tissue regeneration by recapitulating the normal sequences of development and repair. Current research projects in the laboratory focus on bone and cartilage regeneration. The long-term goal of our research efforts are to solve problems that will have a direct and significant impact on human health. 

In our laboratory we utilizes a cross-disciplinary tools based on expertise in biologically modified synthetic polymers, stem cell biology, and murine models of orthopaedic injuries. Chelsea completed a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Following her undergraduate degree she spent 5 years in Research & Development for industry working on working on radiofrequency based electrosurgical devices for tissue sealing (LigaSureTM). She then returned to complete a PhD in Cell & Developmental Biology from Oregon Health and Sciences University and a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at UCSF in pre-clinical models of bone regeneration. Projects in the laboratory are currently funded by the NIH, AO Foundation, Foundation of Orthopaedic Trauma (FOT), NSF Center for Disruptive Musculoskeletal Innovation, Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA), and UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Catalyst Award. 

Current Projects
1.  Endochondral Bone Regeneration: The majority of fractures heal indirectly through a cartilage intermediate in a process called endochondral ossification. Our lab utilizes a “Developmental Engineering” approach which aims to promote the normal sequences of endochondral repair in order to engineer a more functional and vascularized bone regenerate. To accomplish this research we utilize murine models of fracture healing and critical sized bone defects to study bone regeneration. Through our studies we have found that cartilage grafts generate a vascularized bone regenerate that has better integration strength than a bone allograft. Furthermore, using cartilage transplanted from reporter mice we discovered that cartilage transforms directly into bone during endochondral repair. This work has proven to be highly significant as it goes against the classic model of endochondral ossification in which hypertrophic chondrocytes undergo apoptosis. This work has been highlighted in Nature News & Views (Schwarz. Regenerative medicine: Cartilage transplants hold promise for challenging bone defects. 2014) and in the Faculty of 1000. 


2. Chondrogenesis and Articular Cartilage Regeneration: Osteoarthritis is a disease of the articular cartilage that affects 52 million adults and costs $22.6 billion dollars a year. The permanent cartilage found in the articular cartilage is privileged from the process of endochondral ossification that occurs in fracture healing. Here we again take a Developmental Engineering approach to build on mechanistic insight of chondrogenesis and endochondral ossification to understand the biomodal process. Published work focused on developing strategies to modulate cartilage phenotype following by adapting the biological microenvironment of chondrocytes.  


3.  Engineered Scaffolds for Tissue Regeneration: Our laboratory utilizes biologically modified synthetic three-dimensional scaffolds as a platform technology for delivery cells or growth factors for tissue engineering. We have developed cytocompatible strategies to photoencapsulate cells within scaffolds, mechanically stimulate scaffolds during culture, tune degradation kinetics, and optimize microtopography for improved cellular outcomes. Additionally, we have studied the impact that 3D scaffold culture and growth factor delivery have on phenotype of the encapsulated cells. 

4.  Device Development: A long term goal of the laboratory is to develop translationally relevant research to improve clinical outcomes. Currently, we are collaborating with the Maharbiz laboratory in the UC Berkeley Electrical Engineering and Drs Meir Marmor and Safa Herfat in the OTI on developing a novel electrical impedance spectroscopy device to monitor fracture healing. This work has been funded by collaboration with industry through Center for Disruptive Musculoskeletal Innovation. 

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5.  Neuronal influences on fracture healing: Interestingly clinical phenomenon suggests that fracture healing is accelerated following traumatic brain injury. Through a collaboration with the UCSF BASIC team ( and Dr. Sarah Knox’s Laboratory ( )we are trying to understand the underlying reasons for alteration is fracture healing following brain injury and how the nerves might directly influence bone repair. Ultimately we hope to design a therapeutic approach that can recapitulate neuronal influences on bone repair and accelerate healing.

Orthopaedic Trauma Institute (OTI)

The Orthopaedic Trauma Institute (OTI) is a collaboration between the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Zuckerberg San Francisco General (ZSFG). The OTI is the only trauma center in San Francisco specializing in the treatment and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries. Regardless of where you live or which health insurance policy you carry, if you suffer a life- or limb-threatening injury in San Francisco, the ambulance will bring you to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. Once there, you’ll find our team of UCSF Orthopaedic Department surgeons, specially trained to mend complex fractures all over the body.

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