The Center for Musculoskeletal Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center has earned a nearly $6 million, five-year award from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease at the National Institutes of Health. The funds, which brings the center’s total forecasted earnings for 2017 to $28 million, will allow researchers to create a new multidisciplinary research program focused on bone infections.

Staphlyococcus aureus (Photo credit: Centers for Disease Control)

Bone infection, while relatively rare, can be debilitating and potentially fatal. In recent years, researchers at CMSR have made several discoveries that position them to advance new treatments and possible cures for bone infections. The center is among the top five NIH-funded orthopaedic research centers nationwide for more than a decade, while Edward Schwarz, Burton Professor of Orthopaedics and director of the CMSR, has been the top NIH-funded orthopaedic researcher in the country for three years running.

Most bone infections are caused by a bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus, including the  methicillin-resistant strain, which causes sepsis and death in 13 percent of infected patients.

Schwarz and others showed that the bacteria can crawl deep into tiny channels in bones, later emerging to re-establish an infection. Though the bacteria was originally thought to be incapable of Schwarz and other scientists found that this bacteria can migrate through tiny pores in membranes in the lab.

This new grant will allow researchers to investigate exactly how the bacteria gets into bone and develop new treatments that target those mechanisms. The multidisciplinary team will develop new antibiotics to inhibit bone infection, which will be 3D printed into spacers that replace infected joint implants.