The Arthritis Revolution

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I had the pleasure of recently speaking with Dr. Louis Pack, a physician with over 40 years of clinical and surgical experience treating patients with joint pain.  Dr. Pack called me out of the blue just before the holiday break and said he would like to meet after reading our recent publications on osteoarthritis joint imaging and intra-articular therapeutic delivery strategies.  He told me he treats a wide range of patients from older individuals debilitated with arthritis and considering joint replacement to elite athletes looking for a biomechanical edge in their sport of choice.  His fundamental premise is that using orthotics to correct joint mal-alignment and leg length discrepancies can relieve pain and enhance performance for millions of individuals without surgery.  It is not often that I meet a clinician with a shared passion for the importance of biomechanics so I agreed to meet Dr. Pack at his office out near Lake Oconee and then he visited the Petit Institute and spoke to our students earlier this month.  As I was leaving his office, I was surprised to meet tennis pro Robby Ginepri walking in!  Ginepri lives in the Atlanta area and when I told him my daughter Sophia plays for the state champion Walton High School tennis team he responded that he played for their rival Wheeler High School.  

Osteoarthritis (OA) affects nearly 27 million people in the US alone and is by far the leading cause of chronic disability worldwide.  In addition to long-term pain and discomfort, the economic cost of degenerative joint diseases collectively is over $100 billion.  Remarkably, there are no FDA-approved disease-modifying drugs to treat OA.  Several Petit Institute faculty conduct OA-related research to address grand challenges related to improving early diagnosis, understanding the biomechanical etiology of the disease, developing novel therapeutics and intra-articular delivery methods, and establishing predictive preclinical models to test new treatment strategies.
Dr. Pack showed me how poorly my own feet and ankles were aligned and suggested making custom orthotics for me.  Although I don’t have OA (yet!), I do have recurring low back problems.  The orthotics were not cheap but they’ll be worth every penny if they fix my back pain.  While our research primarily focuses on regenerative strategies to resurface degenerating joints, Dr. Pack got me thinking about what the impact would be of widespread use of biomechanically optimized orthotics as a preventative joint health strategy.  Elite athletes like Robby Ginepri have figured out that optimal alignment gives them a competitive edge. I wonder how much we could save our healthcare system by performing biomechanical evaluations of joint kinematics of young patients before they develop joint pain and OA?

Written by:
Bob Guldberg, PhD
Executive Director, Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering & Bioscience

Robert E. Guldberg, Ph.D. holds the Parker H. Petit Director's Chair in Bioengineering and Bioscience at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  He is a Professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and program faculty member in the Georgia Tech/Emory Department of Biomedical Engineering.  Under his leadership, the Petit Institute has expanded significantly to support the research of over 150 faculty from a broad range of science, engineering, and clinical disciplines, 17 interdisciplinary research centers, and two graduate programs in bioengineering and bioinformatics.  Guldberg also co-directs two research centers, the GT/Emory Center for Regenerative Engineering and Medicine (REM) and the GT/CHOA Center for Pediatric Innovation (CPI).

Guldberg’s personal research interests focus on musculoskeletal growth and development, functional regeneration following traumatic injury, and degenerative diseases, including skeletal fragility and osteoarthritis. His research has resulted in over 170 book chapters and publications. Guldberg is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) and holds several national leadership positions.  He currently serves as Chair of the Americas Chapter of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS-AM) and was conference chair for the TERMIS-AM 2013 meeting in Atlanta.  Guldberg sits on numerous local and national advisory boards, including the National Academies Roundtable on Biomedical Engineering Materials (BEMA).


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Colly Mitchell
  • Created: 02/03/2014
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016


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