May 6, 2014

Biomedical researchers look for synergies in the lab

First annual 'McCaig Meeting Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases' brings experts together

About 80 people who research osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal diseases in different faculties and labs at the University of Calgary gathered Friday to find out more about each other’s work in an effort to advance their own.

Organizers of the first annual McCaig Meeting Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases were pleased to see dozens of researchers and graduate students from different labs studying a wide range of diseases.  

“We have a critical mass of people who are actively researching in osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoporosis, bone cancer and other diseases and injuries that target muscle,” says Roman Krawetz, assistant professor in surgery, cell biology and anatomy in the Faculty of Medicine.  “And we had a good showing from across the board.”

While the diseases are different — osteoarthritis affects cartilage around the joint, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects joints, tissues and organs and osteoporosis is a bone disease — the researchers were looking for common methodological approaches.  “Some of the techniques researchers use in osteoporosis might be beneficial to groups studying osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis,” Krawetz says. “By getting all the different people to share what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, we  can see if there are areas where they can work better together and maybe come up with some new ideas.”

Meeting provided an opportunity for experts to interact
Krawetz, who helped organize the one-day meeting, says a lot of the people who attended have seen each other around on campus and at conferences, “but few of them have actually had the opportunity to sit down and have an in-depth discussion about what they are doing in their labs, how they do it and where ideas potentially overlap.”

Those types of conversations, aided by presentations at the meeting that encompass new biomedical engineering approaches from all four pillars of health research will help build a “sense of community” that could well translate into sharing methodologies and furthering research in different labs.

As well as 20 presentations about work on campus, two international researchers — Ali Mobasheri from the University of Surrey and Gregory Jay from Brown University — shared “methodology and ideas that none of us really incorporate into our own fields yet,” says Krawetz, who studies osteoarthritis focusing on stem cell therapies and new methods of early detection.

“I look forward to seeing how this meeting translates into new collaborations,” says Krawetz. “The initial outcomes have been extremely positive and we are already planning next year’s meeting.”

Biomedical Engineering at the University of Calgary involves faculty members from six faculties, more than 60 graduate students in the multifaculty Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program and undergraduate students in the Schulich School of Engineering's Biomedical Engineering Specialization. Engineering Solutions for Health: Biomedical Engineering is one of six strategic research priorities of the University of Calgary.