Soft Tissue Research Laboratory

Overview: Laboratory for Soft Tissue Research

The Laboratory for Soft Tissue Research was established in January of 1992 as part of the Research Division of Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). The laboratory is located on the fifth floor of the Research Building of the Hospital, and is associated with the New York Hospital (NYH) - Cornell University Medical College (CUMC) complex, including the Memorial Hospital-Sloan Kettering Research Institute (MSKRI) and the Rockefeller University. The Laboratory for Soft Tissue Research is part of the consortium of New York City universities, hospitals, and research institutes that comprise the Center for Biomedical Engineering (CBE) at the City University of New York's School of Engineering. The consortium includes Hospital for Special Surgery, Weill Cornell Medical College and Graduate School of Sciences of Cornell University, New York University School of Medicine, Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Columbia College of Physicians & Surgeons, and The City College of New York.

The Laboratory for Soft Tissue Research was established to serve as a scientific and clinical research and education center with expertise in the connective soft tissues related to orthopaedics and rheumatology. The laboratory is dedicated to performing basic, applied, and translational research relevant to the various soft tissue structures of the musculoskeletal system (cartilage, tendon, ligament, meniscus, nerve, and muscle), and to the training of medical, engineering, and science students at the post-graduate, graduate, and undergraduate levels. The professional and technical staff of the laboratory is comprised of a multidisciplinary team of physicians, scientists, and engineers to investigate the musculoskeletal system at the cellular, tissue, and whole body levels.

Areas of Research: Laboratory for Soft Tissue Research

Major areas of research are in the study of cell and tissue biology, function, and biomechanics (mechanobiology) of articular cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and meniscus in health and disease. Of particular interest are questions concerning how cells respond to injury or disease (metabolism); how cellular response affects the matrix components (composition and arrangement); how these changes influence the tissue's physical performance (biomechanical properties); how mechanical deformation of the extracellular matrix influences cellular function (signal mechanotransduction); how mechanical forces can change the conformation of proteins and influence their cleavage by enzymes (enzyme mechanokinetics); how we can repair and restructure the tissue's damaged microstructure (termed tissue engineering) through normal biological pathways (cellular engineering) or synthetic pathways (molecular engineering); how natural and synthetic materials can be combined to produce biocompatible tissue constructs (biomaterials); how genetically engineered cells (gene therapy) can be used to repair damaged tissues; and how cells and biologically compatible biomaterials can be combined to produce a viable replacement for damaged tissues.

Specific projects include determining the initiation and prevention of cartilage degradation and the diagnosis of cartilage formation/remodeling using non-invasive imaging tools such as MRI; identifying mechanotransduction pathways in ligament fibroblasts to provide critical information for scaffold design in the potential tissue engineering of ACL replacement constructs; identifying genes whose activities control the growth and development of joint cartilage, in particular, genes with differential expression patterns in different zones of articular cartilage; and understanding the cellular and molecular events that control healing at the tendon-to-bone attachment site using animal models to study the effect of mechanical loading and cell-mediated gene therapy on tendon-to-bone healing.

Laboratory Personnel: Laboratory for Soft Tissue Research


  • Xiang-Hua Deng, M.D., Assistant Scientist
  • Jo A. Hannafin, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Co-Laboratory Head
  • Chisa Hidaka, M.D., Assistant Scientist
  • Dejan Milentijevic, Ph.D., Instructor
  • Scott A. Rodeo, M.D., Professor
  • Peter A. Torzilli, Ph.D., Senior Scientist and Laboratory Head
  • Russell F. Warren, M.D., Senior Scientist
  • Madhu Bhargava, Ph.D., Emeritus
  • Jonathan Bourne, Ph.D., Adjunct Assistant Scientist
  • C.T. Christopher Chen, Ph.D., Adjunct Assistant Scientist

Research Associates and Senior Technicians

  • Erik Attia, B.S.
  • Krista Bohnert, B.S.
  • Sheela Damle, B.S.
  • Alice Fox, MSc
  • Mark Stasiak, M.E.
  • Lilly Ying, B.S.



Principal Scientist
Peter Torzilli, PhD