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Board approves creation of two new centers within OMNI

November 2, 2022

The Ohio University Board of Trustees approved the creation of two new centers, the Injury and Pain Research Center and the Center for Healthy Aging, both housed within the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute (OMNI).

OMNI, which has grown to consistently be one of OHIO's most productive research institutes, has an active grant enterprise of more than $22 million. Seven of its investigators have been ranked in the top 2 percent of their respective fields, and its scientists have published more than 1,600 articles.

“The creation of these new centers within the highly reputed, world-class Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute places an additional emphasis on the importance of the research we are conducting, and it builds capacity for OHIO to further its impact in the region and beyond,” Ohio University President Hugh Sherman said.

“Situated in Appalachian Ohio, OMNI is uniquely positioned to study aging and pain management, which are two of the most pervasive health issues facing the region and society at large,” said Ken Johnson, D.O., OHIO’s chief medical affairs officer and Heritage College executive dean. “The innovative solutions being forged by researchers in these OMNI centers stand to benefit the wellbeing of people everywhere.”

Brian Clark, Ph.D., executive director of OMNI, said the creation of the centers sharpens the focus on the research that has been ongoing for many years within the Institute.

“For more than a decade we have had a solid critical mass of scientists conducting highly impactful and internationally renowned research in these two areas,” Clark said.

Researchers within OMNI’s Center for Healthy Aging will continue to focus on understanding the biological causes behind reduction in neurological and musculoskeletal form in function in older adults, and conducting clinical trials examining the effectiveness of pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions designed to enhance physical and cognitive function, the two primary drivers that send people into institutions for ongoing care.

“Our research aims to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders linked to both physical and cognitive frailty with the overall goal being to help people enhance those functions and continue to live independently,” Clark said. “We’ve got a huge number of people heading into their older years. That’s a huge individual and societal burden.”

OMNI’s Injury and Pain Research Center similarly conducts research aimed at understanding injury prevention as well as chronic and acute pain and looks for treatments to mitigate injuries and alleviate pain.

“Thirty-five million U.S. citizens seek medical care for a musculoskeletal injury annually, 32.5 million live with chronic osteoarthritis and its associated pain, and nearly 65 million report a recent episode of low back pain. These musculoskeletal conditions degrade quality of life and result in a staggering economic burden that exceeds $870 billion in medical expenses, missed work, and lost productivity,” Clark said. The center will continue research that elucidates the physiological mechanisms, biomechanical effects, and neuro-psychological aspects of pain and injury. In addition to this mechanistic work, the center conducts clinical trials examining the effectiveness of non-surgical interventions to reduce pain, disability, and prevent injury to reduce the burden of musculoskeletal diseases and preserve quality of life.”

The two centers, which share the overarching aim of developing interventions that enhance physical function and ultimately reduce disability, will be housed within OMNI. Clark, professor of physiology and neuroscience and the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation Harold E. Clybourne, D.O., Endowed Research Chair, will continue to serve as the executive director. OMNI is in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine but also includes faculty members in the College of Health Sciences and Professions, College of Arts and Sciences, and the Russ College of Engineering and Technology.