Suzanne Maher, PhD, received her bachelors and masters degrees in Mechanical Engineering from University College Dublin, Ireland. She was awarded a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Trinity College Dublin, after which she came to Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) as a post-doctoral fellow. She has been a Scientist at HSS since 2002, which was punctuated by a period of research at the Cartilage Biology and Orthopaedics Branch at the National Institutes of Health.
Her early research focused on the pre-clinical evaluation of materials for total joint replacement, but she gradually morphed that expertise to focus on developing models to quantify knee joint contact mechanics and the functional performance of materials for meniscal/ chondral repair. Using a combination of cadaveric, computational, statistical, and imaging approaches, she identified common loading patterns on articular cartilage during simulated gait and gathered intriguing clinical data indicating that changes in contact mechanics after meniscal surgery may be predictive of the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis. She is using this knowledge to develop intra-operative sensors and pre- and post-operative imaging approaches to predict and quantify clinically meaningful changes in joint mechanics. Dr. Maher's NIH funded studies have resulted in polymer technology which led to a spin out life sciences company, the first in the history of HSS, focused on commercializing a non-degradable implant for the treatment of cartilage defects.
Dr. Maher is committed to the training and advancement of scientists and clinician-scientists in the field of musculoskeletal research. As co-PI on an NIH funded Training Grant, she actively mentors graduate and post-graduate students, and clinical fellows and residents. Dr. Maher has an adjunct appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University (CU) through which she acts on thesis committees for graduate students, facilitates cross-campus collaborations through a summer Clinical Immersion Program, and is the co-founder of a newly revitalized HSS-CU Center for Advanced Materials and Engineering in Orthopaedics (CAMEO). She co-directs the HSS Orthopaedic Soft Tissue Research Program, is Associate Director for the Department of Biomechanical Engineering, and is committed to leveraging her academic positions to integrating expertise and personnel across the disciplines of biology, mechanics, and materials science towards improving the clinical care of patients with musculoskeletal diseases.
Preventing Joint Degeneration After Injury: The only solution for end stage joint degeneration, Osteoarthritis (OA), is replacement with metal and plastic parts. And, yet, for almost 50% of patients with OA, their path towards this disease was initiated with a joint injury in their younger years. We are leveraging fundamental biomechanical principles, combined with surgical innovations, novel biomaterials, and state-of-the art imaging, to better understand, and to prevent/ delay the progression of OA after joint injury.
Identifying cartilage loading 'hot spots': Once cartilage is damaged, it cannot self-heal. If joint forces are shifted to new locations after injury/ surgery, cartilage will slowly degenerate. We are developing intra-operative sensors to allow surgeons to quantify forces across joints before, during, and after surgery, so that they can augment their surgical plan to avoid cartilage loading 'hot spots'. These sensors will be used to give real-time feedback intra-operatively and to identify patients who are at risk of developing OA, and as such indicated for closer follow-up or additional interventions.
A new era of biomaterials: The menisci and cartilage of the knee joint are central to its health and function. But when damaged, limited surgical options exist to treat the associated pain and functional limitations. We are developing a new generation of non-biodegradable aligned porous polymers, which are engineered to function like, and to integrate with, the native tissue. We have developed a novel implant for cartilage replacement which resulted in the first life-sciences startup company to emerge from HSS and is poised to move into clinical trials in 2024. Armed with this success, we are now adapting our platform to develop materials for meniscal repair – a tissue which is operated upon over 1 million times annually in the US.
What factors predispose patients to early OA? We are building a library of patient MRI scans and extracting geometrical features which are correlated with early-stage changes in joint tissue after surgery. The information gathered is being combined with laboratory studies, in which more detailed analyses are possible. Our approach will allow surgeons to simulate their intended surgery, and to quantify the impact of that surgery on the patient's joint mechanics, and tissue changes. Our ambitious goal, which is partially funded by the National Institutes of Health, is to generate a report as to the mechanical 'risk factors' for early OA, for high-risk patients.
Building on the legacy of HSS to train the next generation of innovators: With unique 40+ year laboratory programs centered on mechanical engineering and the biological sciences as applied to Sports Medicine, we are leveraging our world-class faculty of PhDs and MDs, to provide a nurturing cross-disciplinary educational environment for future generations. Supported by a prestigious NIH training grant, we have developed a rigorous and choreographed program to nurture the next generation of surgeon-scientists. By partnering our MDs with PhDs, we are in a strong position to leverage our cutting -edge research to the benefit of clinical care.
National Institutes of Health (NIAMS) R01AR075523: How Partial Meniscectomy Affects Contact Mechanics and Tissue Response
National Institutes of Health (NIAMS) T32AR078751: Combined Engineering and Orthopaedics Training Program
National Institutes of Health (NIAMS): Performance Evaluation of a Non-Degradable Synthetic Device for Chondral and Osteochondral Defects of the Knee.
Orthopaedic Soft Tissue Research Program, Research Institute
Sports Medicine (non-clinician)
Center for Advanced Materials and Engineering in Orthopaedics (CAMEO)
Knee joint mechanics
Life Sciences Spin Out Companies
Senior Scientist, Research Institute, HSS
Co-Director, Orthopedic Soft Tissue Research Program, Research Institute, HSS
Associate Director, Department of Biomechanics, HSS
Adjunct Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University
Professor of Applied BioMechanics in Orthopaedic Surgery, Weill Cornell Medicine, Cornell University
1994, Bachelors of Mechanical Engineering, University College Dublin, Ireland
1996, Masters of Mechanical Engineering, University College Dublin, Ireland
2001, PhD in Mechanical Engineering, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.
Excellence in Mentorship Award, Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS) 2020
Silver Medal Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2020
Elected Board Member of the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS) 2017
Elected Fellow of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) 2016
Elected to the College of Fellows of American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) 2016
Wang, J-S, Valdivia, G.G., Dunbar, M.J., Rorabeck, C.H., Bourne, R.B., Maher SA, 2003, Histomorphometry Analysis of Bone-Cement and Cement-Metal Interface, a chapter in 'Handbook of Histology Methods for Bone and Cartilage', Edited by An, Y.H., and Martin, K.L.
Wright, T.M., Maher, SA, 2003, The Articulation, Section I, Chapter 5. In Joint Replacement Arthroplasty 3rd Ed (ed by BF Morrey), Churchill Livingstone, New York.
Wright T.M., Maher, SA, 2007, Biomaterials, Orthopaedic Basic Science Foundations of Clinical Practice, 3rd Ed., Edited by Einhorn, TA, O'Keefe, RJ, Buckwalter, JA., American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Wright, T.M., Maher SA, 2014, Post-Traumatic Arthritis: Pathogenesis, Diagnosis and Management, Section III: Peri-articular Tissue Response to Joint Injury; Chapter 18: Potential Mechanism of PTA: Alterations in Joint Loading. Edited by Farshi Guilak and Steven Olson. ISBN 978-1-4899-7606-2
Wright T.M., Maher, SA, in press, Orthopaedic Knowledge Update (v. 9), American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Shah RP, Schaer TP, Elliott DM, Maher SA, Mauck RL. Tissue Engineering – Musculoskeletal; Cranial And Maxillofacial: Biomaterials For Replacement And Repair Of The Meniscus And Annulus Fibrosus. In Comprehensive Biomaterials. Edited by Paul Ducheyne, Dietmar Hutmacher, James Kirkpatrick, and Kevin Healey.
Nakamura N, Rodeo S, Alini M, Maher S, Madry H, Erggelet C. Chapter 1, DeLee, Drez, & Miller's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Physiology and Pathophysiology of Musculoskeletal Tissues. 4th Edition, 2014.
Chen T, Brial C, McCarthy M, Warren RF, Maher SA. Synthetic PVA Osteochondral Implants for the Knee Joint: Mechanical Characteristics During Simulated Gait. Am J Sports Med. 2021 Sep;49(11):2933-2941. PMID: 34347534
Yodmuang S, Guo H, Brial C, Warren RF, Torzilli PA, Chen T, Maher SA. Effect of Interface Mechanical Discontinuities on Scaffold-Cartilage Integration. J Orthop Res. 2019 Apr;37(4):845-854.
Khoshgoftar M, Torzilli PA, Maher SA. Influence of the Pericellular and Extracellular Matrix Structural Properties on Chondrocyte Mechanics. J Orthop Res. 2017 Oct;35(10):2233-2242.
Maher S, Wang H, Koff MF, Potter HG, Rodeo SA. A Clinical Platform for Understanding the Relationship Between Joint Contact Mechanics & Articular Cartilage Changes after Meniscal Surgery. Journal of Orthopaedic Research, 2017 Mar;35(3):600-611.
Wang H, Koff MF, Potter HG, Warren RF, Rodeo SA, Maher SA. An MRI-compatible loading device to assess knee joint cartilage deformation: Effect of preloading and inter-test repeatability. J Biomech. 2015, Sep 18;48(12):2934-40.
Gilbert S, Chen T, Hutchinson ID, Choi D, Voigt C, Warren RF, Maher SA. Dynamic contact mechanics on the tibial plateau of the human knee during activities of daily living. J Biomech. 2013 Jun 27;47(9):2006-12.
Ng KW, Wanivenhaus F, Chen T, Hsu HC, Allon AA, Abrams VD, Torzilli PA, Warren RF, Maher SA. A novel macroporous polyvinyl alcohol scaffold promotes chondrocyte migration and interface formation in an in vitro cartilage defect model. Tissue Eng Part A. 2012 Jun;18(11-12):1273-81.
Bedi A, Kelly NH, Baad M, Fox AJ, Brophy RH, Warren RF, Maher SA. Dynamic contact mechanics of the medial meniscus as a function of radial tear, repair, and partial meniscectomy. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2010 Jun;92(6):1398-408.
Maher SA, Rodeo SA, Doty SB, Brophy R, Potter H, Foo LF, Rosenblatt L, Deng XH, Turner AS, Wright TM, Warren RF. Evaluation of a Porous Polyurethane Scaffold in a Partial Meniscal Defect Ovine Model. Arthroscopy. 2010 Nov;26(11):1510-9.
Maher SA, Doty SB, Torzilli PA, Thornton A, Lowman A, Thomas J, Warren R, Wright TM, Meyers. Nondegradable Hydrogels for the Treatment of Focal Cartilage Defects. J Biomed Mater Res A. 2007; 83(1):145-55.
For more publications, please see the PubMed listing.
2022: The Annual Meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society, ORS Business Committee, Invited Speaker. The Nuts and Bolts of Funding and Running a Start-Up as PI
2021. Invited Speaker: University of Delaware: The Mysterious & Misunderstood Meniscus.
2021: Invited Speaker at the Intellectual Property Workshop, Orthopaedic Research Society Annual Meeting
2020: University of Ulm, 40th year celebration of the founding of the Institute of Orthopaedic Research and Biomechanics. Cancelled due to COVID-19. We Move or We Rust
2020: Invited Speaker, Brown University: The Meniscus
2020: The Samuel Haughton Distinguished Lecture at the Annual Meeting of BioEngineering in Ireland
2019: Invited Speaker at the Joint Meeting of Pre-Clinical and Implants Sections at the Annual Meeting of Orthopaedic Research Society: Use of Computational Modeling to Inform and to Replace, Reduce and Refine
2018: Invited Faculty, International Cartilage Research Society (ICRS) Annual Meeting, Macau, China: Cartilage Contact Mechanics after Joint Injury
2018: William F. Neuman Visiting Speaker at Rochester University: Improving Pre-Clinical Testing Approaches in Orthopaedics: A Work in Motion
2018: Keynote speaker, Joint Session between ORS & World Congress Biomechanics, Dublin, Ireland, Tribology: Are Changes in Joint Mechanics Related to Progression of Joint Degeneration?
One of the goals of HSS is to advance the science of orthopedic surgery, rheumatology, and related disciplines for the benefit of patients. Research staff at HSS may collaborate with outside companies for education, research and medical advances. HSS supports this collaboration in order to foster medical breakthroughs; however, HSS also believes that these collaborations must be disclosed.
As part of the disclosure process, this website lists Research staff collaborations with outside companies if the Research staff member received any payment during the prior year or expects to receive any payment in the next year. The disclosures are based on information provided by the Research staff and other sources and are updated regularly. Current ownership interests and leadership positions are also listed. Further information may be available on individual company websites.
Below are the healthcare industry relationships reported by Dr. Maher as of March 28, 2023.
Jannu Therapeutics - Ownership Interest
By disclosing the collaborations of HSS Research staff with industry on this website, HSS and its Research staff make this information available to patients and the public, thus creating a transparent environment for those who are interested in this information. Further, the HSS Conflicts of Interest Policy does not permit payment of royalties on products developed by him/her that are used on patients at HSS.
Feel free to ask the Research staff member about their relationship(s).