Bone and Joint Division

Group Head

Laboratories and their heads

Overview of research program

The number of individuals affected with bone and joint disease is staggering, with for example nearly one fifth of the Australian population afflicted with some form of arthritis and up to 70% of people over the age of seventy having a tear in their rotator cuff tendon in the shoulder. While these diseases are rarely fatal, the associated chronic pain, lifestyle restriction and decreased productivity has an enormous impact on both the affected individuals and our society. Such is the individual and social impact of musculoskeletal diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis, that the World Health Organization designated 2001-2010 the Bone and Joint Decade. The aim of the WHO was to bring awareness of the impact of bone and joint disease and encourage ongoing research into the causes and treatment of these conditions. The Royal North Shore Hospital is one of the top bone and joint research hubs in Australia with a number of laboratories dedicated to this area.

Research at RNSH into the etiopathogenesis of musculoskeletal disorders, particularly osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and intervertebral disc degeneration has utilised epidemiological and clinical investigations of the elderly populations in the northern Sydney region. In the various laboratories, cell and tissue culture models enable the molecular events that lead to different musculoskeletal diseases to be identified. In addition a strong record in development and use of animal models of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and disc degeneration has enabled identification of the morphological, biochemical and molecular events which occur at the tissue and cellular levels during the initiation and progression of these disorders. These models also allow vital development and pre-clinical testing of new therapies.

The knowledge generated by all these studies has provided valuable insights into the underlying pathology of musculoskeletal problems and has facilitated the pursuit of novel strategies for their treatment. The role that mechanical factors play in the failure of joint tissues, as often occurs during elite sporting activities and the effects of the surgical procedures which may be used to treat them, such as meniscectomy, cruciate ligament reconstruction, etc. have been studied in patients and in animal models. Post-surgical regimens including exercise and pharmacological treatments are actively being investigated in an attempt to abrogate the onset and progression of degenerative changes in joint tissues subsequent to these injuries and to provide a rational basis for rehabilitation of patients with established disease.

About the Institute of Bone and Joint Research (IBJR)

The Institute of Bone and Joint Research (IBJR) is an institute without walls with the existing laboratories and clinical research units dispersed, not only on the RNSH campus, but also at other teaching hospitals of the University of Sydney.

At the RNSH, basic and clinical research within the IBJR are presently undertaken in the Departments of Orthopaedics and Rheumatology and their associated laboratories which includes the Raymond Purves Bone and Joint Research Laboratories, the C Murray Maxwell Biomechanics Laboratory and the Sutton Arthritis Research Laboratories.

The IBJR joined the Kolling Institute of Medical Research in 2006, with the objective of improving the collaboration and cross-fertilisation between researchers in different disciplines to advance bone and joint disease research on the campus.