Professor Donald Salter


We are actively involved in research in a number of diseases and conditions that afflict the musculoskeletal system with the aim to increase the understanding of the pathological processes involved and to identify new targets for translational studies that will improve patient outcomes. Currently we are focussing on the use of mesenchymal stromal cells for bone and cartilage repair and as theragnostic agents in the treatment of cancer. We have developed a novel transgenic approach that allows  mesenchymal stromal cells to produce magnetic nanoparticles. These intrinisically magnetic cells are being assessed in parallel with MSCs carrying engineered nanoparticles  for their effectiveness as delivery systems for a range of clinical applications including  bone and cartilage repair, for in vivo imaging, magnetic hyperthermia treatment or for radiosensitsation for cancer therapy.

In osteoarthritis research, in collaboration with Professor Stuart Ralston, we are using in vitro and in vivo approaches and models to identify how inherited and environmentally acquired risk factors such as susceptibility associated SNPs in genes identified in GWA studies (GNL3, ASTN2, PAPPA and TRIM32) and obesity, influence the function of cells within diarthrodial joints leading to the cartilage, synovial and bone abnormalities which result in joint failure.  Sarcomas are much rarer with an incidence of 0.1 – 5 per 100,000 depending on the specific type. Sarcomas in bone are most commonly seen in young teenagers and adolescents whilst sarcomas in soft tissue are most common in patients older than 55.

We are working as part of a multidisciplinary group in Edinburgh to better understand the biology and molecular abnormalities that result in the development of these rare cancers with the aim of identifying biomarkers and abnormal pathways that will be targetable allowing specific personalised therapy. This includes using a molecular and proteomic approach on patient samples to identify novel mutations. Molecules such as NG2/CSPG4 appear to be expressed in greater amounts in soft tissue and bone sarcomas and identifying how dysregulated expression of this molecule influences sarcoma growth and spread is a prime theme of current research.