Senior Investigator, Lady Davis Institute
Head, Orthopaedics Research Lab, Jewish General Hospital
Professor, Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University
Dr. Fackson Mwale is head of orthopaedics research at the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital and Professor of Surgery at McGill University in Montreal. He is an internationally recognized scientist in the field of orthopaedics and spine research, who served as co-chair of the 11th Canadian Connective Tissue Conference in Montreal in 2005. Dr. Mwale won the new investigator recognition award from the Orthopaedic Research Society in 1999.
He is well-known for his identification that Link-N peptide, the N-terminal peptide of link protein which is generated in vivo by proteolytic degradation during tissue turnover, can stimulate the synthesis of proteoglycans and collagens by intervertebral disc (IVD) cells. Furthermore, being a synthetic peptide, Link N has considerable financial benefits for clinical use over recombinant growth factors because it is extremely cheap to produce. He also showed that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from osteoarthritic patients express type X collagen (a marker of chondrocyte hypertrophy) and that it can be suppressed by culturing stem cells on nitrogen (N)-rich plasma polymer layers. His laboratory continues to work in the fields of tissue engineering of IVDs and in developing an objective, accurate, non-invasive diagnostic tool (quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)) in the detection and quantification of matrix and biomechanical changes in early IVD degeneration. He showed that the production of an extracellular matrix with a high proteoglycan to collagen ratio can be used in vivo to distinguish nucleus pulposus (NP) cells from chondrocytes, and could help in identifying a NP-like phenotype in vivo, as opposed to a chondrocyte when MSCs are induced to differentiate for tissue engineering of a disc.
Major Research Activities
Dr. Mwale’s lab conducts cutting-edge research on tissue engineering of IVD. The long-term goal is to promote nucleus pulposus repair using growth factors, scaffolds and property mesenchymal stem cells in the degenerated IVD. This is important because degenerative disc disease begins in the central nucleus pulposus region and has been implicated as a major component of spine pathology. Currently, the two major clinical procedures for treating disc degeneration are disc excision and spinal fusion. Although these procedures offer relatively good short-term clinical results in relief of pain, in many instances they have been disappointing because of altered spinal mechanics leading to subsequent degeneration at adjacent disc levels.
Dr. Mwale’s laboratory is also studying quantitative MRI as a diagnostic tool of IVD matrix composition and integrity. Quantitative MRI can be used as an accurate and non-invasive diagnostic tool in the detection and quantification of matrix composition and material properties of the human IVD and can, therefore, become a very important diagnostic and treatment assessment tool in determining the functional state of the disc.
Algarni N, Grant M, Epure LM, Salem O, Bokhari RF, Antoniou J Md PhD, Mwale F. "Short Link N can induce regeneration of the early degenerate intervertebral disc in a novel long-term organ culture model that includes the bony vertebrae." Tissue Eng Part A. 2016 Sep 27.
Grant MP, Epure LM, Bokhari R, Roughley P, Antoniou J, Mwale F. "Human cartilaginous endplate degeneration is induced by calcium and the extracellular calcium-sensing receptor in the intervertebral disc." Eur Cell Mater. 2016 Jul 25;32:137-51.
Grant M, Epure LM, Salem O, AlGarni N, Ciobanu O, Alaqeel M, Antoniou J, Mwale F. "Development of a Large Animal Long-Term Intervertebral Disc Organ Culture Model That Includes the Bony Vertebrae for Ex Vivo Studies." Tissue Eng Part C Methods. 2016 Jul;22(7):636-43. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEC.2016.0049.