Orthopedic Bioengineering and Tissue Engineering Approaches to Study Hyaluronan

Interdisciplinary Areas: Engineering-Medicine

Project Description

The objective of this project is to elucidate the role of hyaluronan in the “gut-joint axis” using preclinical models and tissue-engineering inspired approaches. The gut-joint axis is the set of relationships and mechanisms that link the health of the synovial joint (e.g., knee) to the gut microbiome. Manipulation of the murine gut microbiome is one method by which researchers evaluate the influence of microbes on synovial joint structure and function. Hyaluronan plays a role in intestinal permeability and synovial joint physiology so could be a pillar of the gut-joint axis. Hyaluronan can also act as a pro- or anti-inflammatory signal depending on its molecular weight. This project will use complementary approaches involving genetic mouse models with deficient hyaluronan synthesis and hyaluronan-based biomaterials to probe the role of hyaluronan signaling in the gut-joint axis. 

Dr. Chan is a biomedical engineer with expertise in biomedical imaging, biomechanics, and preclinical models to study synovial joint health and disease. Dr. Liu is a chemical engineering with a strong research program in novel biomaterials for cartilage tissue engineering. Because of the prominent role that hyaluronan plays in cartilage, Drs. Chan and Liu are both interested in hyaluronan biology and inflammatory signaling in the synovial joint.

Start Date

November 1, 2023

Postdoc Qualifications

The ideal candidate will be able to demonstrate…
• A Ph.D. in Biomedical, Biomaterial, or Chemical Engineering or in a field related to matrix biology
• Expertise in cell and molecular biology, biomaterials, and biochemistry
• Familiarity with ethical use of preclinical (mouse) models or willingness to learn
• Ability to independently design, conduct, and document experiments
• Critical thinking, curiosity, and creativity in multidisciplinary research
• Effective project and time management, mentorship, leadership, and interpersonal skills
• Strong oral and written communication
The successful candidate will also be responsible for preparing manuscripts for publication, traveling to and presenting research results at scientific meetings, and working with the PI to manage research activities in the lab and train students. Postdocs are also expected to apply for external support and to develop additional independent projects in orthopedic research as part of their training to become independent investigators.


Deva Chan, Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering

Julie Liu, School of Chemical Engineering 

Short Bibliography

• Chan DD, Xiao WF, Li J, de la Motte CA, Sandy JD, Plaas A. Deficiency of hyaluronan synthase 1 (Has1) results in chronic joint inflammation and widespread intra-articular fibrosis in a murine model of knee joint cartilage damage. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2015;23(11):1879-89. Epub 2015/11/03. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2015.06.021. PubMed PMID: 26521733; PMCID: PMC4630789.
• Pendyala M, Stephen SJ, Vashishth D, Blaber EA, Chan DD. Loss of hyaluronan synthases impacts bone morphology, quality, and mechanical properties. Bone. 2023;172:116779. Epub 20230424. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2023.116779. PubMed PMID: 37100359.
• Pendyala M, Woods PS, Brubaker DK, Blaber EA, Schmidt TA, Chan DD. Endogenous production of hyaluronan, PRG4, and cytokines is sensitive to cyclic loading in synoviocytes. PLoS One. 2022;17(12):e0267921. Epub 20221228. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0267921. PubMed PMID: 36576921; PMCID: PMC9797074.