Our Research

The James Laboratory is located in the Department of Pathology in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Our research focus lies at the intersection of skeletal pathophysiology and stem cell biology. Current subjects of study include bone repair and regeneration, osteoprogenitor cell characterization and use, and neoplastic bone. A partial description of current interests is presented below:

Neural influence on bone formation and repair

Nerve and vessel patterning within a healing bone after stress fracture in a mouse. Nerves appear green (Thy1-YFP), vessels appear red (CD31). Dashed lines indicate the upper and lower bounds of the fracture callus, with high magnification images to the right. Fracture sites are indicated by arrowheads.

Skeletal sensory nerves are abundant in mature bone tissue, but their role in mammalian bone morphogenesis and repair is poorly understood. Our group studies the role of skeletal sensory nerves, focusing on understanding the crosstalk between peripheral nerves and bone-forming cells during tissue repair. Recently we have shown that NGF (Nerve growth factor) responsive TrkA (Tropomyosin receptor kinase A)-expressing sensory nerve fibers are integral for stress fracture healing in the mouse skeleton.

Perivascular progenitor cells

Mesenchymal progenitor cells reside in perivascular location across organs.  Our past work has examined perivascular progenitor cells from human and mouse sources, their cellular characteristics and osteoprogenitor cell attributes.  Present work focuses on the cellular and developmental hierarchy within this microanatomical stem cell niche.  See below for several links to publications.

Novel differentiation factors for bone repair

skull defect
Colorized micro computed tomography (microCT) reconstruction of a mouse calvarial defect model. On the right, the original and unhealed parietal bone defect site can be visualized in blue. On the left, partial bone defect healing is observed in white.

Numerous growth and differentiation factors are produced or released from bone after injury, some of which aid in the reparative process.  We have shown that exogenous application of positive regulators of Hedgehog and Wnt signaling induce bone healing in both calvarial, axial, and appendicular skeleton. See below for several links to publications.

Bone and soft tissue tumors

The wide histologic spectrum of osteosarcoma.

Malignant tumors of mesenchymal origin are a complex and heterogeneous group of aggressive tumors, termed sarcomas. Our group is most interested in skeletal sarcomas (osteosarcoma and chondrosarcoma), and perivascular soft tissue tumors.  See below for several links to publications.