skip to primary navigationskip to content

Frances Henson

Comparative Musculoskeletal Biology Group

Our research focus is on understanding how the musculoskeletal system heals, with a particular interest in cartilage, meniscus and bone repair. The Comparative Musculoskeletal Biology Group is part of the ARUK Tissue Engineering Centre.

Our work falls into three main areas:

Basic science - Can we enhance the healing of joint surface defects?.

Damage to the joint surface is difficult to repair due to the poor intrinsic healing capacity of the resident cell population, the chondrocytes.  We work on the relationship between joint surface defects, the response of the endogenous stem cell populations and the interplay between these stem cells and the musculoskeletal cells in the damaged niche. Current areas of active research include the use of high field MRI to track iron nanoparticle stem cells exogenously applied into normal and diseased joints.

Preclinical modelling - Modelling of joint surface defect repair 

Development of successful strategies to enhance joint surface repair requires that the defects are adequately healed and that the healing tissue is appropriate and robust. We have significant experience with large animal models of joint surface defect repair.  We are particularly interested in evaluating novel methods of quantifying joint repair and the patient response and have recently introduced the use of remote telemetry to measure functional behaviour.

Equine science - Equine stress fracture and tendon pathology 

Stress fractures in horses are a significant clinical problem.   A recent study in our group highlighted the possible importance of sclerostin in the aetiopathogenesis of stress fracture.  Current areas of research include the investigation of whether induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) from high and low risk fracture horses can be used to predict bone biology behaviour in vitro and the use of embryonic stem cells in treating tendon lesions in horses in collaboration with Dr Debbie Guest, Animal Health Trust, Newmarket.

We work very closely with the Division of Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery, Addenbrooke's Hospital, our research is interdisciplinary and focuses on translation into human medicine.

Key Publications

Google scholar - list of all publications

"Patient reported outcomes" following experimental surgery - using telemetry to assess movement in experimental ovine models. Newell, K., Chitty, J. and Henson F.M.D. (2017) Journal of Orthopaedic Research In Press

Healing of osteochondral defects via endochondral ossification in an ovine model. Lydon, H., Getgood, A. and Henson F.M.D. (2017) Cartilage doi/10.1177/1947603517713818 eprint ahead of publication

Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells Enhance Cartilage Repair in in vivo Osteochondral Defect Model Hopper, N., Wardale, J., Brooks, R., Power, J., Rushton, N. and Henson F.M.D. (2015) Plos One e0133937. 

Peripheral blood derived mononuclear cells enhance the migration and chondrogenic differentiation of multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells. Hopper, N., Wardale, J., Howard, D., Brooks, R., Rushton, N. and Henson F.M.D. (2015) Stem Cell International 323454. 

Peripheral blood derived mononuclear cells enhance osteoarthritic human chondrocyte migration. Hopper, N., Henson F.M.D., Brooks, R., Ali, E., Rushton, N. and Wardale J. (2015) Arthritis Res Ther 17:199.

Frances Henson

Dr Frances Henson

Comparative Musculoskeletal Biology Group and Senior Lecturer in Equine Studies

Group members: Karin Newell, Will Hotham, Luisa Garcia


Plain English

Research in the Comparative Musculoskeletal group focuses on understanding how musculoskeletal tissues heal.  Poor healing and remodelling of the skeletal system leads to arthritis, which arises when joints become damaged and, in horses, to catastrophic bone fracture, when the stress of training on bone is not healed. The work in Fran’s group example of a 'One Health' agenda, with human and veterinary problems being considered as one biological problem.  


Arthritis Research UK

Innovate UK


EU Horizon 2020

Frances Henson is available for consultancy