Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine Receives $100,000 Research Grant from the American Osteopathic Association

by News Release | Jul 09, 2021

The Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MU-COM) grant application “Soft tissue manipulative therapy in bone anabolism” has been approved and funded by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) in the amount of $100,000.

The proposal, led by Jonathan Lowery, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology, founder and director of the Bone and Muscle Research Group (BMRG) at Marian University, and faculty lead for research development, and Julia Hum, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology and co-director of the BMRG, is in collaboration with the Indiana University School of Dentistry and the School of Health and Human Sciences.

The grant will fund research focused on the mechanisms mediating soft tissue manipulative therapy and examines the potential usefulness of osteopathic manipulative therapy in the management of osteoporosis, which is a chronic disease of low bone mass that places individuals at enhanced risk for fracture, disability, and death.

“There are several manual therapy techniques that are used for controlling inflammation and we saw a natural overlap of these manual medicine techniques, such as soft tissue massage,” said Dr. Lowery. “There is some evidence that techniques where soft tissues – such as muscles – are compressed with physical force help control inflammation. In this grant application to the AOA, we combined soft tissue manual therapy with our interest in osteoporosis to propose that massage may be used as a means for controlling inflammation and increasing bone mass as we get older.”

The studies will be carried out on both Marian University’s campus and on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University and will include the involvement of Marian University graduate and medical students. 

“A core commitment of the BMRG is that students are involved in every step along the way so that they get real experience about solving problems in a real-world setting,” Dr. Lowery said. “Students receive intentional mentorship and guidance from experienced scientists, including designing and carrying out the experiments, analyzing and interpreting the results, and then we write and publish the research manuscripts together.”

Funding for this project will begin in September and conclude in May 2023, providing for the acquisition of new research instruments not currently available in Central Indiana, collaborations with noted experts, educators, and students, and the opportunity to advance the work to reach future goals such as applying for funds from the National Institutes of Health.   

“We are hopeful to carry our work forward as a potential non-pharmacological therapy for bone loss. This would be a major advancement for helping a variety of patients, such as those who are bed-ridden or cannot do resistance training all the way to individuals who experience bone loss during spaceflight,” said Dr. Lowery. “We're in the early stages of this work, but funding from organizations like the AOA is essential for us to develop proof of principle. This is one important step along that journey toward turning this into a larger project.”

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