Third-year science student and Markin Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP) studentship recipient Dhriti Chakravarty has taken her interest in biomedical research to the next level. Under the mentorship of Dr. Nigel Shrive, who specializes in the mechanical and structural behaviour of normal, healing and reconstructed ligaments, Chakravarty is currently investigating the effect of the synthetic steroid dexamethasone (DEX) on the knee joint post-surgery.
An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear is most often a sports-related injury and commonly occurs when there is excessive force on the knee joint from movements such as a quick change of direction, pivoting or landing a jump. Treatment for ACL injuries varies depending on the severity of the injury. Severe ACL tears may require reconstruction surgery, which involves using another ligament or tendon from the lower extremity to substitute for the torn ligament.
“Currently about 50 per cent of Canadians that have had joint reconstruction surgery have developed post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA), despite apparent restoration of mechanical functionality in the joint,” says Chakravarty. “Since current joint-reconstruction surgical technology is able to restore the native mobility of the joint reasonably well, it is hypothesized that the pathway leading to PTOA in the knee begins as a biochemical one."
Synthetic steroid may help prevent post-surgery osteoarthritis
"This project is about investigating therapeutic intervention, using a synthetic steroid called dexamethasone (DEX)," she continues. "It is expected that administering DEX to the knee joint-capsule immediately post-surgery will attenuate the initial inflammation and thus inhibit the induction of cartilage degradation in the joint. This may halt any negative biomedical precursors to PTOA from developing after a surgeon operates on a patient.
“In parallel, we are also investigating the pathway through which PTOA develops. A new partnership between the Foothills Hospital and the McCaig Bone and Joint Health department involves the study of knee tissues removed from human patients undergoing knee replacement surgery. We are hoping that looking at the state of knee cartilage in their last stages of osteoarthritis may provide some clues as to what alterations in the joint led to this disease.”
Chakravarty’s role during the Fall 2016 / Winter 2017 Markin USRP session was to histologically evaluate knee tissue within the joint following severe knee trauma, as well as evaluate knee tissue at end-stage osteoarthritis to help support research findings related to her research project. Chakravarty’s results will potentially demonstrate whether immediate post-surgical administration of the corticosteroid dexamethasone will prevent the degeneration of the knee joint tissues following severe knee injuries. The research findings will also be integrated with the research work collected by the Hart-Shrive lab research group to assist in the development of treatments for high-risk PTOA patients with severe knee injury.
Markin USRP opens doors to showcase student research
Chakravarty reveals that it can be challenging studying a highly specified degree such as cellular, molecular and microbial biology (CMMB), as you can lose a sense of the bigger picture. Her Markin USRP journey has instilled a reminder of the importance of in-depth material taught in the classroom. “I believe that the pairing of classroom knowledge with exposure to applicable research is crucial to preserving a student’s scientific curiosity and passions,” says Chakravarty.
Since summer 2002, the Markin Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP) in Health & Wellness has supported 641 research projects. Fifteen Markin USRP projects will be displayed from 2-3:30 p.m. at the Markin USRP Student Research Mini-Symposium on Friday, April 7. Join us at the Rozsa Centre even for 10, 15 or 20 minutes and learn more about the current health and wellness research being conducted by our undergrads here at the University of Calgary. It is truly amazing what these undergraduate students have accomplished within five months. Visit ucalgary.ca/usrp for more information about the upcoming Markin USRP Student Research Mini-Symposium and the Markin USRP program.