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Expertise in Musculoskeletal Health

Musculoskeletal Research

Indiana University has assembled an elite group of more than 90 scientists, primarily at the IU School of Medicine, performing basic, translational and clinical research to:

  • Better understand the biology of muscles and bone, the crosstalk between them and other organs, and how those interactions are affected by the aging process
  • Identify the causes and mechanisms of musculoskeletal disorders
  • Develop prevention strategies and improved treatments for those disorders

The team includes physicians and scientists in orthopaedic surgery, anatomy and cell biology, physiology, endocrinology, pediatrics, kinesiology, physical therapy and many more specialties, enabling the collaboration necessary for modern biomedical research.

To expedite research progress, several thematic groups composed of basic, translational and clinical researchers have been formed:

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  • Lifestyle Modifications
    Physical activity and nutrition and exercise, focusing on lifestyle, nutrition and behavioral modifications that impact musculoskeletal health and physical function, especially in regards to nutrition and mobility that lead to a healthier individual. Understanding how musculoskeletal disorders affect overall population health and how chronic diseases impact musculoskeletal health.
  • Cancer in Bone and Muscle
    Cancer in bone and muscle, focusing on preventing or curing sarcoma multiple myeloma, breast and prostate cancer in bone.
  • Trauma Regeneration Rehabilitation
    Trauma, regeneration, rehabilitation, focusing on muscle and bone injuries, tissue regeneration and patient rehabilitation.
  • Genetic and Endocrine Diseases
    Genetic and endocrine diseases, precision medicine, focusing on treatment of genetic bone disease, chronic kidney disease and diabetes.
  • Hypophosphatemic Rickets
    A world leader in research related to hypophosphatemic rickets – a group of rare bone conditions caused by low phosphate levels – researchers at IU School of Medicine have pioneered new therapies for children and adolescents suffering from these disorders.
  • Mechanobiology and MuscleBone Crosstalk
    Mechanobiology and muscle/bone crosstalk, focusing on basic musculoskeletal biology and the effects of exercise on the musculoskeletal system, especially in relation to obesity, and the new research area of non-mechanical, systemic interactions between muscle and bone.
  • Pediatric Musculoskeletal Disease
    Pediatric musculoskeletal disease, focusing on childhood diabetes, genetic bone disease osteosarcoma and dystrophies.

Musculoskeletal Health Research Faculty

13712-Burr, David

David B. Burr, PhD

Distinguished Professor Emeritus

David Burr, PhD, and his group identified negative effects of agents used to treat osteoporosis on bone accumulation and bone fragility and confirmed benefits to bone tissues from SERMS.

Read Bio David B. Burr, PhD

18628-Kacena, Melissa

Melissa A. Kacena, PhD, MS

Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery

Melissa Kacena, PhD, and her team are developing new treatments for bone fracture, osteoporosis and other bone issues with experiments aboard the International Space Station.

Read Bio Melissa A. Kacena, PhD, MS

Interview and IU School of Medicine Expert

Schedule an interview with an IU School of Medicine faculty member or receive material and resources about a specific area of medical research and education by contacting the Communications team.

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Indiana Center for Musculoskeletal Health Research

Indiana Center for Musculoskeletal Health

To help meet society’s growing need to prevent and treat musculoskeletal disorders and to leverage the broad range of research and clinical expertise available at IU School of Medicine, the Indiana Center for Musculoskeletal Health was created in 2017. Directed by Lynda F. Bonewald, PhD, the center includes outstanding, internationally known researchers in the areas of basic, translational and clinical musculoskeletal research at the IU School of Medicine and partner institutions.


Bone Healing In Space

Bone Healing in Space

Led by Melissa Kacena, PhD, the Bone Healing in Space program is a collaborative effort by IU School of Medicine with NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense to study the interaction of the bone and hematopoietic systems in space aboard the International Space Station in order to improve the treatment of metabolic bone disease, hematopoietic disorders and fracture healing.


An elite group of more than 40 scientists and clinicians are working on musculoskeletal research. Collaborators with IU School of Medicine include IU School of Dentistry, Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and other schools at IUPUI. This depth and breadth of expertise enables collaborative efforts that are the hallmark of modern biomedical research, as teams can approach problems at all points on a continuum from the molecular and cellular to surgical to rehabilitation.

IU School of Medicine scientists and partners are also able to interact with a strong community of private industry musculoskeletal health researchers at Indiana’s cluster of orthopaedic products companies in Warsaw and with tissue engineering experts at Cook Biotech in West Lafayette, and researchers involved with osteoporosis and bone biomarker work at Eli Lilly and Co. and Roche Diagnostics in Indianapolis.

Clinical Research

The Indiana Cores Center for Clinical Research is a federally funded center created to enhance clinical research in musculoskeletal disorders and to better understand the muscle-bone connection. The center leverages the resources of institutions across Indiana for initiatives that will enable Indiana University School of Medicine musculoskeletal researchers to identify novel targets for diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders with a focus on precision medicine approaches.