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Frances Henson

The healing of musculoskeletal tissues

I am interested in all aspects of musculoskeletal healing, from the laboratory bench to the clinical patient, but with a particular emphasis on the role of stem cells in the healing of joint surface defects. My work is broadly divided into the following main themes:

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. We are also investigating the role of sclerostin, a wnt signalling inhibitor, in healing.

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.  Current areas of research include evaluation of a 3D printed, patient specific, 'personalised' biphasic osteochondral scaffold.

Clinical research - Equine stress fracture 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 emphasis 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. This work is done in collaboration with the Animal Health Trust, Newmarket.

We work very closely with the Division of Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery, Addenbrooke's Hospital, ensuring that our research is cutting edge and interdisciplinary.

Key Publications

Google scholar - list of all publications

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.
Delivering rhFGF-18 via a bilayer collagen membrane to enhance microfracture treatment of chondral defects in a large animal model. Howard, D., Wardale, J., Guehring, H. and Henson F.M.D. (2015) J. Orthop. Res. 33 1120-1127. 

Frances Henson

Dr Frances Henson

Senior Lecturer in Equine Studies

Group members: Helen Lydon, Karin Newell, Ciara Whitty, Tim Lindsay

Plain English

Our research 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. Our research is an example of a 'One Health' agenda, with human and veterinary problems being considered together.  We work very closely with the Division of Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery, Addenbrooke's Hospital, ensuring that our research is cutting edge and interdisciplinary.



UK Regenerative Medicine Platform

Arthritis Research UK

Merck Serono



Frances Henson is available for consultancy