February 06, 2023

Meet Simon Tang, PhD, MSCI

Orthopedic Researcher

"My research program integrates musculoskeletal bioengineering and regenerative medicine to discover novel and new therapies for precision medicine and rehabilitation. Musculoskeletal conditions, including low back pain, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis, afflict nearly 90% of all Americans. There is an urgent societal need to engineer innovative solutions to alleviate the public burdens of these diseases. We investigate the disease mechanisms that affect structure-function relationships of musculoskeletal tissues with the overall goal of developing tissue engineering and regenerative strategies for these diseases."

Where are you from? 

I grew up in Southern California - and miss the great weather and the beaches!

What made you choose orthopedics as a research specialty?

Having studied mechanical engineering, I was first drawn to the elegance of the skeleton as a mechanical system. I got involved in research as an undergraduate and loved it; I continued working on musculoskeletal problems during my PhD work in biomedical engineering. By the time  I was conducting my postdoctoral fellowship, I was relentlessly fascinated by scientific discovery and the translational potential of orthopedic research. I also loved collaborating with passionate clinicians who were invested in solving scientific problems that would ultimately benefit patient care.

What brought you to Washington University Orthopedics?

The reputation of WashU Orthopedic Research, the ability to work with world-class investigators, and the highly collaborative environment were the key factors that ultimately drew me to WashU. Prior to my interview, I had never been to St Louis. Over the years, we have found many things to love about St. Louis, and I am proud to call WashU Orthopedics and St. Louis home!

What aspect of your research do you find most interesting or rewarding?

There is nothing like the thrill of discovering new knowledge. Collaborating with colleagues with and mentoring scientists as we solve problems together and advance science as a team is especially rewarding.

What are you and your team currently working on?

We are currently working to understanding the biological mechanisms of low back pain caused by intervertebral degeneration, and developing potential therapies to alleviate the pathoanatomical features. Our work with human participants aims to develop new and novel biomarkers for future low back pain. We are also interested in ways to control the quality of bone through biological mechanisms to optimize bone's resistance to fracture. Our collaboration within industry is focused on developing new methods for diagnosing bone fragility in under diagnosed and under- treated populations.   

How does your work translate to patient care?

There are a number of ways that our work translates into patient care. First, our biomarker work in low-back pain and osteoporosis will help improve the diagnosis and prevention of low-back pain and fracture-causing pathologies. We are also actively investigating molecular therapeutic pathways that could have the potential to become disease-modifying therapies and enhance the treatment of musculoskeletal diseases.

What's the best advice you ever received? 

Among all the advice I've received over the years, one piece seems to come up over and over again: Support the people in the best ways, and the best science will emerge. This is one I try especially hard to live by as I have always felt supported by my past and current mentors. 

What's your favorite thing to do outside of work?

We enjoy hiking and spending time outdoors!

If you weren't a researcher, what would you like to be doing?

Because of my gravitation towards building, I might be a carpenter. 

Anything else you would like to share?

We have a pug that travels with us everywhere we go!

Learn why patient's choose Washington University Orthopedicsrequest an appointment online or call (314) 514-3500.

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