In slightly less than 50 years, the orthopedic laboratory has grown from a single small room with approximately $10,000 in seed money, to include multiple areas with approximately 4,000 square feet of space, a multi-million dollar endowment and a grant-funded research program.
Almost from its inception, KU Orthopedics engaged in clinical research and made important contributions to the medical literature based on patient studies and case reports.
In 1957, space and funds were made available for the James B. Weaver Orthopedic Laboratory with a single small room for laboratory investigations located next to the orthopedic clinic and directly across the corridor from the cast room. Within several months of the lab's opening, hospital administrators awarded the department a three-room laboratory that was considered quite well equipped at the time. It included a room for chemical analyses, a larger general laboratory and an animal operating room with a small X-ray unit. Over the years, the Weaver laboratory was the site of several projects that led to numerous literature publications on fat embolism, total joint bone cement interface analysis and the Isola spine implant studies among others.
In October 2000, Terence E. McIff, MBA, Ph.D., was recruited to direct and expand laboratory and orthopedic research efforts. He inherited the Weaver lab and immediately set about planning and negotiating to obtain the old KUMC machine shop and develop it into the large and modern facility it is now. The current 4,000 square foot Orthopedic Research and Education Center includes space for specimen preparation and dissection, a machine shop, a wet lab, a biomechanical lab, a molecular lab, an MTS machine and computer lab space for computational biomechanical analysis. Dr. McIff was awarded additional space of 2000+ square feet to expand the much needed wet lab space and to create a Surgical Skills Training Lab, which opened in 2020. In addition to orthopedic residents and faculty, medical students, graduate students and biomechanical engineers use the center for educational purposes as well as research.
The Harrington Laboratory for Molecular Orthopedics, directed by Jinxi Wang, M.D., Ph.D., was established in 2005. The laboratory is well equipped for research in morphology, biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology of skeletal tissues. These facilities are dedicated to the study of bone and cartilage biology, as well as specific skeletal diseases. Currently, research in this laboratory is focused on the following areas: (1) the regulatory mechanisms of osteoblast differentiation and bone regeneration, (2) molecular regulation of chondrocyte differentiation and articular cartilage regeneration, and (3) pathogenetic mechanisms and novel therapeutics for osteoarthritis.