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 T-COHR | T-COHR Trainees | Sarah Cisewski
Student Profiles-Sarah Cisewski
2nd year student

Undergraduate institution

Clemson University, BS Bioengineering

Title of Project                

Nutrient Metabolic Rates of Fibrocartilage Chondrocytes

Project Description

Cartilage is composed of specialized cells called chondrocytes that produce and maintain the extracellular matrix, which consists mainly of a collagen network and proteoglycans. Fibrocartilage is permanently present in the major structurally and mechanically complicated load bearing joints in the body. Degenerative changes are observed in fibrocartilage joints, such as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) as well as the intervertebral disks (IVDs) of the spine. Mechanical dysfunction of the fibrocartilage discs due to tissue degeneration is a common event in joint disorders. Surgical intervention is often unsuccessful; therefore, research to understand the pathophysiology of fibrocartilage disc degeneration for earlier diagnosis and management is essential. It is believed that pathological mechanical loadings trigger a cascade of molecular events leading to fibrocartilage disc degeneration. However, the molecular mechanism, whereby mechanical loading at the body level initiates remodeling processes at the cellular level, is still poorly understood in any joint. Thus, my long-term research goal is to establish such quantitative relationships to elucidate the biomechanical etiology of fibrocartilage disc degeneration, leading to the development of novel, non-invasive diagnostic tools and new strategies for restoring tissue function. Normal human fibrocartilage discs are typically large avascular structures or have a limited blood supply and rely primarily on diffusion mechanisms to supply essential nutrients to a relatively hypoxic environment. Nutrient concentrations (i.e., oxygen/glucose) can profoundly affect chondrocyte cell viability, energy metabolism, matrix synthesis, and response to inflammatory factors. The research objective of my project is to determine the complex relationship between oxygen tension, glucose concentration, and pH to understand how chondrocytes maintain homeostasis by only receiving nutrients and removing wastes via diffusion.

Mentor and Department

Dr. Hai Yao
Department of Bioengineering, Clemson-MUSC Joint Bioengineering Program
Medical University of South Carolina 


Kuo J, Shi C, Cisewski SE, Zhang L, Kern MJ, Yao H. Regional Cell Density Distribution and Oxygen Consumption Rates in Porcine TMJ Discs: An Explant Study. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. July 2011. 19(7); 911-8.

Cisewski SE, Wu Y, Baatz JE, Sachs BL, Glaser JA, Yao H. Nutrition Metabolic Rates of Normal Human Intervertebral Disc Cells. 58th Annual Orthopedic Research Society Meeting. San Francisco, CA. 2012.

Wu Y, Cisewski SE, Yao H. Effect of Cartilage Endplate on Nutrient Distribution inside Human Intervertebral Disc: A Finite Element Analysis. 58th Annual Orthopedic Research Society Meeting. San Francisco, CA. 2012.

Wu Y, Cisewski SE, Sachs B, Glaser J, Yao H. Oxygen Consumption Rate of Human Intervertebral Disc Cells. 57th Annual Orthopedic Research Society Meeting. Long Beach, CA. 2011.

Kuo J, Cisewski SE, Kern MJ, Yao H. Effect of Oxygen Glucose Consumption in Porcine TMJ Disc. 40th International Association for Dental Research, San Diego, CA. 2011.

Cisewski SE, Yao H. “Biphasic Properties of Bovine Cartilaginious Endplate.” Howard Hughes Medical Institute/ South Carolina Life Research Program. Clemson, South Carolina. April 17, 2010.

Wu Y, Kuo J, Cisewski SE, Zhang L, Glaser JA, Yao H. “Biphasic Properties of Bovine Cartilaginious Endplate.” 56th Annual Orthopedic Research Society Meeting. New Orleans, Louisiana. March 6-9, 2010.


Austin T. Moore Leadership Award, Clemson Department of Bioengineering, Spring 2012

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mention, 2010-2011