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Office Location:
Kaufmann 910

Mailing address:
3471 5th Ave
Pittsburgh PA 15213


Kelsey Shrader

Other Affiliations:
Co-Director, Ferguson Laboratory for Orthopaedic and Spine Research


Gwendolyn Sowa, MD, PhD

Professor and Chair, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Research Interests

Dr. Sowa Co-directs the Ferguson Laboratory for Orthopaedic and Spine Research, a 3000 square foot laboratory fully equipped to perform molecular assays including gene expression analysis, protein analysis, cell and organ culture, histology, and cellular and spinal biomechanical testing. She has explored the role of inflammatory and mechanical stress in intervertebral disc degeneration and low back pain, using in vitro, in vivo model systems, as well as human translational studies, with over 100 original research manuscripts and over 190 published abstracts.  She has an active research program investigating biomarkers and other prognostic indicators of response to activity, exercise, and other treatments of low back pain, as well as clinical analytics and modeling from large datasets to predict response to treatment. The ultimate goal of her research program is to apply the knowledge from biology and clinical variables to inform treatment of spine conditions. This prior work coupled with her training as a Physiatrist make her uniquely qualified to contribute both scientific rigor and clinical relevance. She is a board certified physiatrist, and spends approximately 15% of her time treating outpatients with musculoskeletal disorders in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. She is the Medical Director of the UPMC Total Care- Musculoskeletal Health program, which is a multi-disciplinary program involving Physiatry, Physical Therapy, Psychology, Nutrition, and Sleep Medicine aimed at individualizing care to improve outcomes for future translation of identified clinical targets.  In particular,,her clinical work is focused on functional restoration and pain management in older adults with spine pain. 

Technique Expertise or Resources to share

In laboratory unique equipment includes a 6 DOF Robot and in vivo bioreactor for functional spine unit testing. I also direct a comprehensive musculoskeletal health clinical program, with partnership with PT, Dietician, Psychology, Physiatry, with associated available outcomes data through the UPMC clinical analytics dashboard. We are also a newly funded NIH BACPAC Mechanistic Research Center for chronic low back pain, part of the HEAL initiative, which is a collaborative 5 year project (currently beginning year 2) with membership from SOM, SHRS, School of Engineering and Education. This center will collect biologic samples and genomics and proteomic data, behavioral data, clinical data and biomechanical data on 1000 subjects with chronic low back pain and be a rich resource for future studies.


Spine, low back pain, disc degeneration, biomarkers, mechanobiology


Lab website:


Lab Members

Dr. Nam Vo, PhD Co-Director