Cartilage repair and tissue engineering; relationship between biomechanical function, metabolism, composition, and structure of cartilage during growth, aging, degeneration (osteoarthritis), repair, and regeneration.
Professor Sah's goal is to pave the way for successful tissue-engineered total joint replacement for people who suffer cartilage damage due to injury or aging. His research focuses on how to regenerate cartilage tissue that will not only fill defects with load-bearing tissue, but also integrate with the surrounding host tissue. By combining quantitative experiments across multiple biological scales and systematic model-based analyses of biomechanics and biotransport, Sah has made seminal contributions to the multi-scale understanding of biomechanical function and dysfunction of articular cartilage during growth, aging and osteoarthritic degeneration, and to cartilage restoration by treatments with engineered tissues. Recently, his team fabricated a bioreactor which for the first time maintained a knee joint, demonstrated how mechanical stimuli regulated synthesis of the lubricant molecular, proteoglycan-4, and developed a joint-scale model of lubricant metabolism in the joint. These results help to elucidate the physiology of the normal joint. Understanding this natural environment is important to successful tissue-engineered implants because joints cells and tissues must work together to not only function mechanically but also adapt appropriately over time. A number of these studies are conducted in collaboration with UCSD School of Medicine faculty.
Robert Sah has been a member of the bioengineering faculty at the UCSD Jacobs School since 1992. He earned his M.D. at Harvard Medical School in 1991 and Sc.D. from MIT in 1990. In 2006, Sah as named as a Professor by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and also awardee of the Van C. Mow Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. In addition, Sah has received the National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Kappa Delta Award (twice), and Arthritis Foundation Hulda Irene Duggan Investigator Award. His "Mechanical Blueprint for Cartilage" has been cited as one of the Great Advances in Scientific Discovery in Disease and Injury Treatment by The Science Coalition.