The Microbiome in Orthopaedic Biomechanics

Date(s) - 04/05/2021
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Virtual via Zoom

Chris Hernandez, Ph.D., Professor, Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University


The microbiome consists of the microbial organisms that colonize the human body, the vast majority of which occupy the gut. Advances in high throughput sequencing over the past 15 years have led to a rediscovery of the microbiome as a contributor to human health. Although modulation of the constituents of the gut microbiome has been associated with the pathogenesis of diseases throughout the body including atherosclerosis, autoimmune disease, obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, very little is known about how the gut microbiome modulates the health of the musculoskeletal system or the success of orthopaedic procedures. Here I provide an introduction to the microbiome for biomedical engineers, including the state of the art in the field of the microbiome and current concepts of how modifications to the gut microbiome could influence distant organs such as bones and joints. I review recent preclinical and clinical studies linking the gut microbiome to rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Additionally, I discuss a preclinical model of periprosthetic joint infection and review recent work from our group showing that modulation of the gut microbiome can influence susceptibility to periprosthetic joint infection. Although much of the work done to date has focused on the effects of the microbiome on disease pathogenesis, the gut microbiome contains over 5 million bacterial genes, each a potential drug target with the potential to be a novel, inexpensive and innocuous treatment or preventive intervention for musculoskeletal disorders.


Dr. Hernandez is Professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University and is an Adjunct Scientist at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Dr. Hernandez is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR). He is the 2018 recipient of the Fuller Albright Award for Scientific Excellence from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Orthopaedic Research Society and is currently serving as Councillor to the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. His laboratory’s research currently focuses on the effects of the microbiome on bone and joint disorders, periprosthetic joint infection and the biomechanics and mechanobiology of infectious bacteria.