Laboratory of D. Rick Sumner, PhD

D. Rick Sumner, PhD, is a professor and chairperson of the Department of Cell & Molecular Medicine and director of the Rush MicroCT and Histology Core.

Over the past 30 years, our lab has been funded through the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, industry, private foundations and philanthropic gifts. Our lab frequently interacts with other groups at Rush as well as with labs throughout the United States and internationally.

Research focus

Our specific areas of research interest are bone regeneration, orthopedic implant fixation and the role of bone in osteoarthritis. Currently, our projects are focused on the following:

  • Early detection and treatment of particle-induced peri-implant osteolysis
  • Bone matrix maturation in the adult skeleton
  • The effect of space flight on bone quality
  • The relative timing of change in cartilage and bone during the development of osteoarthritis

Many of these projects rely on advanced imaging techniques performed here at Rush and in several national laboratories, including micro-computed tomography, backscatter scanning electron microscopy and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). Other major methods include histology, mechanical testing, biomarkers and proteomics.


  • NIH 1R21AR065604: “Bone matrix maturation in a rat model of intra-cortical bone remodeling.” Principal investigator: Dr. Sumner
  • NIH 1R01AR066562: “Detection and treatment of peri-implant osteolysis.” Principal investigator: Dr. Sumner
  • NASA subcontract: “Foundational in-vivo experiments on osteocyte biology in space.” Lead principal investigator: Alex Robling, PhD, Indiana University; site principal investigator: Dr. Sumner
  • NIH P30AG010161: “Association between bone turnover markers and level of cognition in older community dwelling individuals with memory concerns.” Lead principal investigator: David Bennet; pilot project principal investigator: Dr. Sumner
  • Roche Diagnostics Corporation: “Equipment and reagents to support ‘Association between bone turnover markers and level of cognition in older community dwelling individuals with memory concerns.’” Principal investigator: Dr. Sumner


A listing of Sumner’s research can be found on PubMed.

Current graduate students

Brittany Wilson

My dissertation project involves using biomarkers for early detection of peri-implant osteolysis after primary total joint arthroplasty. The majority of my work will focus on our lab’s rat model of wear-particle induced, peri-implant osteolysis. It will involve the use of diagnostic tools, like ELISA, and proteomics approaches, such as two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry, to measure circulating biomarkers.

The major objective of this work is to verify a biomarker panel for early diagnosis of peri-implant osteolysis, which may postpone the need for revision total joint arthroplasty and allow for non-surgical rescue of implant fixation.

I am originally from the southwest suburbs of Chicago and completed undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago where I was awarded a Bachelor of Science in biology with minor study of kinesiology and a Bachelor of Art in psychology. I began my graduate education at Rush University in the fall of 2012.