New Sydney MSK partnership will hasten evidence into practice


14 Oct 2021

Prof Chris Maher

A new musculoskeletal health research partnership between Sydney University and local health providers aims to develop and implement evidence based practices and education for a range of conditions.

The Sydney Musculoskeletal Health (Sydney MSK), will link the university with the Sydney Local Health District and North Sydney Local Health District, bringing researchers into partnership with clinicians, consumers, policymakers and industry.

It will also promote evidence-based physical activity and healthy ageing, giving it a uniquely comprehensive focus across the full spectrum of musculoskeletal health, according to co-directors – back pain researcher Professor Chris Maher and  Professor David Hunter, a rheumatologist with a special interest in osteoarthritis.

“At the University of Sydney we’ve got a really stellar team of people who are world leaders in a number of areas of musculoskeletal health,” says Professor Maher.

“Collectively, our work runs the whole gamut of health care, from research into musculoskeletal tissue replacements to healthcare delivery to education of future clinicians.

“This partnership is a fabulous opportunity to make a real difference by combining this work and translating it directly into health delivery contexts.”

Professor David Hunter

Professor David Hunter

Professor Hunter said Sydney MSK’s broad focus will encompass all the musculoskeletal conditions, rather than just a particular one as many groups do.

“This ensures that all applicable research will be translated across all relevant applications. And the partnership between the University and the two health districts means this research can be put into practice sooner.”

He said the partnership was truly  multidisciplinary with collaborations involving disciplines from orthopaedics to physiotherapy to dietetics to engineering.

Examples of the cross-disciplinary research include a collaboration between cell and molecular biologists and engineers to develop a  biocompatible ceramic that can be 3D-printed and implanted to help repair injured or diseased human bones.

Another partnership is investigating the use of kangaroo tendons in human joint reconstruction surgery, because of their superior length and strength compared to traditional porcine, synthetic and human tendon grafts.

Sydney MSK researchers such as Professor Christine Lin are also addressing gaps in evidence, such as by evaluating the currently unknown effectiveness of opioids in alleviating acute spinal pain.

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