Skip to main content

Tara Hickman

Graduate Student, Biochemistry

Sun Peck (Thesis)
Kathryn Dahir (Clinical)

The Peck lab’s primary research goals are to elucidate how the chemical composition of various extracellular matrix (ECM) components in musculoskeletal tissues regulate cell differentiation, development, and homeostasis, as well as how dysregulated ECM composition contributes to disease and degeneration. Broadly, musculoskeletal diseases affect over 1.7 billion people worldwide each year and is associated with significant health and socioeconomic burdens. My project will be focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms behind aberrant ECM metabolism in intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration. I plan to use both in vivo and in vitro systems to better understand how altering ECM synthesis, deposition, and degradation influences ECM composition, like collagens and glycosaminoglycans, and thus the behavior of the resident cells in the tissue. Through the identification of collagens and glycosaminoglycans, I hope to better identify underlying mechanisms that contribute to IVD degeneration as well as potential novel therapeutic targets for ECM regeneration. I believe that my research is in line with the APMM goals as it has great potential for transition to the clinical setting once a potential therapeutic has been developed and tested in animal models.