Large osteo-chondral defects of the femoral head result in significant disability in pediatric, adolescent and young-adult patients. Often, patients must either undergo total hip arthroplasty at a young age with associated activity limitations and increased need for future prosthesis revision or modify their activity significantly until they undergo arthroplasty at a later age with prolonged limitations in activity, productivity and quality of life. Recapitulation of normal developmental mechanisms in a sustainable, tissue-engineered construct may eliminate these shortcomings and lead to better functional and clinical outcomes, particularly in the adolescent and young-adult populations. However, the formation of a stable bone – peri-articular cartilage interface able to support prolonged maintenance of healthy, normal articular cartilage and withstand physiologic joint forces in-vivo currently represents a significant hurdle to the development of such a construct. 

Our lab, led by Patrick W. Whitlock, MD, PhD, focuses on the growth, signaling and development of the interface between physeal and peri-articular cartilage in the developing epiphysis. Our goal is to develop optimized tissue-engineered solutions to treat osteo-articular cartilage defects of the femoral head in pediatric patients by first understanding, and eventually recapitulating, the normal growth and development of the bone – peri-articular cartilage interface.