Erica Scheller, DDS, PhD
The Neuroskeletal Biology Laboratory (NSBL) was founded in 2016 and is part of the Musculoskeletal Research MRC) and Division of Bone and Mineral Diseases at Washington University. The laboratory consists of a mix of technicians, trainees/fellows, and undergraduate researchers. For more information about our members and their accomplishments, please see the people, awards, and antics pages. You can also find us on twitter. Our laboratory synthesizes concepts from cell biology, physiology, and bioengineering to study the relationships between the nervous system and the skeleton. We have a directed interest in understanding how neural signals contribute to skeletal homeostasis, and how perturbations to this system contribute to bone loss, impaired healing, and skeletal pain. For more information about our work, see our projects and publications. More information can be found at https://sites.wustl.edu/schellerlab/
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Neuropathy is associated with skeletal disorders including osteoporosis, fractures, and general bone loss. However, our understanding of the region-specific mechanisms surrounding this is limited by our lack of comprehensive maps of skeletal innervation in health and disease. To overcome this, we use tissue clearing, light sheet and confocal microscopy-based approaches to mapping and quantifying nerves in and on the bone, and within the surrounding periosteum and muscle.
Through a collaboration with Drs. Srikanth Singamaneni and Shantanu Chakrabarrty, we’re working to develop a wireless biosensing platform for use in the oral cavity to monitor periodontal disease status, progression, and resolution after treatment. Moving forward, we’d like to find someone that is interested in adapting this technology toward monitoring neural activity and neurotransmitter release. Please contact us if you’re interested.
Using direct application of electrodes or wireless cuff-based technologies, we apply acute and chronic stimuli to peripheral nerves which connect to the skeleton. This allows us to study the impact of neurostimulation on bone turnover, cell function, and protein secretion in diverse settings of health and disease.
Diabetes is associated with decreased bone quality and increased fracture risk in both rodents and humans. We’ve found that the range of potential human skeletal phenotypes is particularly striking (see image below, mid-diaphysis of the human 1st metatarsal in a healthy (top) and diabetic individual (bottom)). In this project, we’re interrogating neuropathy as a component of diabetic skeletal disease using human samples and rodent models.
Approximately 70% of the bone marrow is actually made up of a unique adipose tissue depot known as the bone marrow adipose tissue (BMAT). Nerves in bone connect BMAT to peripheral adipose tissue depots through the central nervous system, with regulatory circuits at the level of both the spinal cord and brain, in addition to local signaling events between nerve terminals and individual adipocytes. In this project, we’re working to understand how neural regulation of BMAT controls local energy storage and release and how this contributes to relationships and cell function within the nerve-fat-bone axis. This has important implications for both whole body energy partitioning and local regulation of skeletal homeostasis. We’re currently looking for a graduate student or post-doc that would be interested in working on this project.
This project focuses on the Schwann cell and it’s ability both interact with the ensheathed nerve axon and to make and secrete large quantities of extracellular proteins. We hypothesize that these interactions are critical for regulation of nerve extension and function within the skeletal microenvironment, impacting diverse outcomes including bone formation, repair, and skeletal pain.
- Alec Beeve, Bioengineering Graduate Student
- Jennifer Brazill, Postdoctoral Research Associate
- Jae Choi, Undergraduate
- Madelyn Lorenz, Research Technician II
- Kristann Magee, Research Technician II
- Hero Robles, Undergraduate
- Ivana Shen, Undergraduate
- Yusuf Bekirov (Undergraduate, 2016-2018)
- Clarissa Craft (Assistant Professor, 2016-2019)
- Antea DeMarsilis (Undergraduate, 2013-2015)
- Eric Hilker (Technician, 2017-2018)
- Eva Jeliazkova (Undergraduate, 2018-2019)
- Madison McManus (Undergraduate, 2016-2018)
- Kayla Moller (Undergraduate, 2016)
- SungJae Park (Undergraduate, 2016-2018)
- Jesse Procknow (Research Specialist, 2016)
- Sarah Turecamo (Undergraduate, 2014-2017)
- Tezin Walji (Technician, 2013-2016)
- Zhouhua Wang (Research Specialist, 2018-2019)
- Natalie Wee (Postdoctoral Fellow, 2016-2017)
- Nasja Wickerhauser (BioSURF Summer Fellow, 2019)
View Erica Scheller’s published research on PubMed »
Join this lab
To inquire about available positions for BME or DBBS graduate students or postdoctoral fellows, please contact us via our lab website https://sites.wustl.edu/schellerlab/home/contact-us/ or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lab members from left to right: Kristann Magee, Madelyn Lorenz, Alec Beeve, Jennifer Brazill, Hero Robles, Erica Scheller. Not pictured: Ivana Shen, Jae Choi