Kevin P. Granata Memorial Lecture - The Death and Re-Birth of the Intervertebral Disc Cell

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


330 Lavery Hall - VT Campus

Dr. Lori Setton
Lucy & Stanley Lopata Distinguished Professor Biomedical Engineering
Washington University St. Louis


Intervertebral disc disorders contribute to pain and disability in millions of affected individuals annually, contributing to low back pain’s ranking as #1 in disease impact in the USA.  Extreme loading conditions, nutrient deprivation, and aging-related processes for resident intervertebral disc cells, the nucleus pulposus cells, all contribute to cellular changes that drive loss of intervertebral disc height, tissue destruction and herniation.  These nucleus pulposus cells are derived from notochord and are responsible for tissue synthesis and growth in the neonate.  With loss of this cell population in the first decades, the intervertebral disc experiences altered disc biochemical composition, cellularity, and material properties that are major contributors to disc pathology.  Our laboratory has studied factors that regulate nucleus pulposus cell mechanics, mechanobiology and cell phenotype and demonstrated an ability to promote biosynthesis and survival through interactions with laminin matrix proteins.  We have also advanced knowledge of environmental cues that promote a healthy, biosynthetically active nucleus pulposus cell, including integrin-mediated and cadherin-mediated interactions.  In this talk, we describe unique cell mechanics for the nucleus pulpous cell and describe our work with engineering substrates and protein-conjugated biomaterials to study mechanobiology and cell-mediated regeneration of the intervertebral disc.


Dr. Setton received her B.S.E. from Princeton University in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, with M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.  Dr. Setton joined the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University in 1994, where she served as the Bevan Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Orthopaedic Surgery.  In 2015, Dr. Setton joined the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Washington University to accept the position as Lopata Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering & Orthopaedic Surgery.

Dr. Setton’s research focuses on understanding the mechanisms for degeneration and regeneration of soft tissues of the musculoskeletal system.  Recent work focuses on development of in situ forming hydrogels for drug delivery and tissue regeneration in the knee joints and spine. She has funded her lab through grants from the NIH, NSF, Whitaker Foundation, Coulter Foundation, OREF, AO Foundation, and research agreements with many corporations.

Dr. Setton has over 180 publications and developed technology for licensing to commercial partners.  Dr. Setton has served as a permanent member of NIH and NSF study sections, as a consultant to NIH and AAOS, and on the Boards of the Biomedical Engineering Society, Orthopaedic Research Society and World Council on Biomechanics.  She is currently serving as President of the Biomedical Engineering Society from 2016-2018.  Dr. Setton is a Fellow of the BMES, the AIMBE and has received a PECASE Award, Dean's Award for Outstanding Research, Graduate Dean's Award for Excellence in Mentoring, and ASME’s Mow Medal.