New Research Effort At Ohio University

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Millions of Americans suffer pain in their muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves.

They might be having musculoskeletal problems.

Doctors and researchers at Ohio University study these disorders, hoping to provide relief.

Brian Clark is the director of the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute, also known as OMNI.  

OMNI recently received millions of dollars from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations for research.

"Certainly, musculoskeletal care is a key component that kinda stands osteopathic medicine out a little bit," said Clark. "Ostepathic training does largely emphasize a little bit more non-surgical management of musculoskeletal pains and disorders."

Clark says his research team is particularly interested in finding out more about osteo-arthritis and lower back pain.

These disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and they involve enormous health care costs.

The grant is for $26 million and Dr. Clark says some of that will be spent on hiring new scientists.

"Creating critical mass is sort of one key piece. Providing physical facilities and infrastructure is another one," said Clark. "Currently, OMNI's main physical location is about 8300 square foot of space in Irvine Hall and within that space we were able to house two or three principal investigators out of there. But, we have more people and we need to centrally locate those folks under one roof to improve that collaboration. So, one overall goal of the grant is to provide a physical facility that will bring us all under one roof. Sort of crossing departments, crossing disciplines to truly bring an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approach to our various scientists that are collaborating together."

Clark hopes to have a staff with as many as 10 "world class scientists."

The new home for OMNI will be located in near the college of medicine and be about 40,000 square feet in size.

Clark wants to put most of OMNI's effort and dollars into five program areas.

"These are low back and chronic pain disorders. I think around 30 million people a year seek physician care for low back pain. So, it's one of the most costly disorders that there is and similar numbers for chronic pain, very highly dibilitating economic issues associated with those.," said Clark.

"Another is what we refer to our sarcopenia and dynopenia research program which in essence is looking at the effects of aging on muscle function and muscle physiology.  Trying to understand the physiological mechanisms of muscle weakness and then developing effective, cost effective and clinically effective therapy strategies to improve muscle function and reduce physical disability in older adults., said Clark.  "Exercise phisiology and rehabilitation medicine.  I think everybody's pretty aware of the pandemic so to speak of obesity in the United States and much of that is being linked to lack of physical activity and poor lifesyle.  So we have a fair amount of our focus efforts focused on trying to understand basic mechanisms of physiology with exercise as well as developing theraputic interventions from the rehabilitation end to improve physical function. "

"The biology of manual therapies is another one. This one largely arises out of our osteopathic roots, where we are trying to understand the sort of the effects and consequences of various manipulative treatments for things such as low back pain," he said.

"And then the last one, which comes more to the skleletal end of things, is looking at connective tissue and bone.  We have work ongoing on right now looking at trying to develop innovative equipment to better measure bone strength. There's not currently a great way to measure bone strength in humans." said Clark.