Dr. Viswanathan is investigating the use of anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory strategies, primarily cell-based, to treat inflammation in osteoarthritis (OA). She is interested in how mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) impact inflammation in OA. She has recently initiated a clinical trial as Co-PI , a first in North America (NCT02351011; clinical trials.gov), to examine the immunomodulatory role of autologous MSCs in OA. Dr. Viswanathan is also evaluating new strategies to improve MSCs therapeutic potency including identifying appropriate sub-populations, engineering MSCs, and combining MSCs with carriers. A related strategy involves re-programming resident monocytes/macrophages to a less inflammatory phenotype in the OA joint to ameliorate the microenvironment; this approach could be used as an adjuvant or stand-alone therapy for OA. If proof-of-principle data is supportive, this research project may lead to the development of a new medical device to locally deliver re-programmed macrophages as a new treatment modality. Dr. Viswanathan's research program also involves screening for small molecules that can re-program joint-resident macrophages to a less inflammatory phenotype and validating those small molecules in OA explant models and animal models.
Assistant Professor, Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto