UC Davis Biomedical Engineering

Kyriacos A. Athanasiou

Distinguished Professor, Chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering

(530) 752-1033

2311 GBSF

Athanasiou Lab






Personal Education

Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering (Bioengineering), Columbia University, 1989

Ph.M., Mechanical Engineering (Bioengineering), Columbia University, 1988

M.S., Mechanical Engineering, Columbia University, 1985

B.S. (summa cum laude), Mechanical Engineering, New York Institute of Technology, 1984

Research Interest

The main objective of Professor Athanasiou’s research is to understand and enhance the healing processes of cartilage. Indeed, successful cartilage regeneration continues to be the most vexing problem in musculoskeletal medicine. Following trauma (such as sports injuries) or pathologic affliction (such as osteoarthritis), cartilage is unable to heal itself in a way that would allow it to function properly under its strenuous and biomechanically difficult environment.

Of particular interest in our efforts are 1) hyaline articular cartilage, found in diarthrodial joints such as the knee, hip, and shoulder, 2) menisci, in the knee and temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and 3) fibrocartilage in the TMJ. Our approach entails the use of biodegradable scaffolds designed to incorporate suitable bioactive agents and signals to regenerate cartilage. We also place particular emphasis on certain aspects of scaffold design and overall approach. These include 1) biomechanical characterization of cartilage, 2) cell adhesion to substrata, and 3) attachment and effects of growth factors on chondrocytes.

In terms of cartilage biomechanics, we perform topographical characterizations of articulating surfaces using compressive indentation loading and tensile testing. To this end, we use custom-made instruments which allow us to obtain these tissues’ viscoelastic properties. We also develop biomechanical approaches to quantify cartilage structural integrity in vivo and arthroscopically. One of the main issues in scaffold design is to encourage cells to adhere correctly. A significant portion of our efforts centers around the elucidation of mechanisms of cell adhesion, defined as cell attachment, cell spreading, organization of actin cytoskeleton, and formation of focal adhesions. We use cytomechanical techniques to measure the mechanical adhesiveness and mechanical properties of individual cells as a function of peptide substrata. We believe that a deeper understanding and control of cell adhesion will result in better tissue engineered cartilage.

Research Facility

Dr. Athanasiou’s Lab

Selected Publications


Lee, J.K.; Responte, D.J.; Cissell, D.D.; Hu, J.C.; Nolta, J.A.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Clinical translation of stem cells: insight for cartilage therapies, Critical Reviews in Biotechnology, DOI: 10.3109/07388551.2013.823596, 2013.

Murphy, M.K.; Masters, T.E.; Hu, J.C.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Engineering a fibrocartilage spectrum through modulation of aggregate redifferentiation, Cell Transplantation, In press, 2013.

Murphy, M.K.; DuRaine, G.; Reddi, A.H.;, Hu, J.C.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Inducing articular cartilage phenotype in costochondral cells, Arthritis Research & Therapy, 15:R214, DOI: 10.1186/ar4409, 2013.

Cissell, D.D.; Hu, J.C.; Griffiths, L.G.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Antigen removal for the production of biomechanically functional, xenogeneic tissue grafts, Journal of Biomechanics, Accepted, 2013.

McNary, S.; Athanasiou, K.A.; Reddi, A.H.: Transforming growth factor β-induced superficial zone protein accumulation in the surface zone of articular cartilage is dependent on the cytoskeleton, J Tissue Engineering, Part A, 20(5-6):921-929, 2014.

Higashioka, M.M.; Chen, J.A.; Hu, J.C.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Building an anisotropic meniscus with zonal variations, Tissue Engineering Part A. 20(1-2):294-302 2014.

Verstraete, F.J.M.; Arzi, B.; Huey, D.J.; Cissell, D.D.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Regenerating mandibular bone using rhBMP-2: part 1 – immediate reconstruction of segmental mandibulectomies, Journal of Veterinary Surgery, article first published online: 10 JAN 2014. DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-950X.2014.12123.x, 2014.

Verstraete, F.J.M.; Arzi, B.; Huey, D.J.; Cissell, D.D.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Regenerating mandibular bone using rhBMP-2: part 2 – treatment of chronic, defect non-union fractures, Journal of Veterinary Surgery, article first published online: 10 JAN 2014. DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-950X.2014.12122.x, 2014.

Murphy, M.K.; Arzi, B.; Hu, J.C.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Tensile characterization of porcine temporomandibular joint disc attachments, Journal of Dental Research, 92(8):753-758, 10.1177/0022034513494817, 2013.

Murphy, M.K.; Arzi, B.; Vapniarsky-Arzi, N.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Characterization of degenerative changes in the temporomandibular joint of the Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) and Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), European Journal of Wildlife Research, Accepted, 2013.

Makris, E.A.; MacBarb, R.; Responte, D.J.; Hu, J.; Athanasiou, K.A.: A copper sulfate and hydroxylysine treatment regimen for enhancing collagen crosslinking and biomechanical properties in engineered neocartilage, The FASEB Journal, doi: 10.1096/fj.12-224030, 27(6):2421-30, 2013.

Athanasiou, K.A.: Eswaramoorthy, R.; Hadidi, P.; Hu, J.C.: Self-organization and the self-assembling process in tissue engineering, Annual Reviews in Biomedical Engineering, 15:115-136, 2013.

Hadidi, P.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Enhancing the mechanical properties of engineered tissue through matrix remodeling via the signaling phospholipid lysophosphatidic acid, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 433:133-138, 2013.

Wong, M.L.; Wong, J.L.; Athanasiou, K.A.; Griffiths L.G.: Stepwise solubilization-based antigen removal for xenogeneic scaffold generation in heart valve tissue engineering, Acta Biomaterialia, 9(5):6492-501, doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2012.12.034, 2013.

Makris, E.A.; Hu, J.; Athanasiou, K.A.:  Hypoxia-induced collagen crosslinking as a mechanism for enhancing mechanical properties of engineered articular cartilage, Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 21(4):634-641, 2013.

Huey, D.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Alteration of the fibrocartilaginous nature of scaffoldless constructs formed from leporine meniscus cells and chondrocytes through manipulation of culture and processing conditions, Cells, Tissues, Organs, DOI: 10.1159/000346252, 197(5):360-371, 2013.

MacBarb, G.; Makris, E.A.; Hu, J.C.; Athanasiou, K.A.: A chondroitinase-ABC and TGF-β1 treatment regimen for enhancing the mechanical properties of tissue engineered fibrocartilage, Acta Biomaterialia, 9:4626-4634, 2013.

Arzi, B.; Cissell, D.D.; Verstraete, F.J.M.; Kass, P.H.; DuRaine, G.D.;  Athanasiou, K.A.: Computed tomographic findings in temporomandibular joint disorders in 41 dogs and 17 cats: (2006-2011), Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 242(1), 2013.

Murphy, M.K.; Huey, D.J.; Reimer, A.J.; Hu, J.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Enhancing post-expansion chondrogenic potential of costochondral cells in self-assembled neocartilage, PLoS ONE, 8(2): e56983. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056983, 2013.

Eleswarapu, S.V.; Athanasiou, K.A.: TRPV4 channel activation improves the tensile properties of self-assembled articular cartilage constructs, Acta Biomaterialia, S1742-7061(12):00523-52012; 9:5554–5561, 2013.

Huey, D.; Hu, J.C.; Athanasiou, K.A.:  Chondrogenically-tuned expansion enhances the cartilaginous matrix forming capabilities of primary, adult, leporine chondrocytes in the self-assembly modality, Cell Transplantation, doi: 10.3727/096368912X657648, 22(2):331-340, 2013.


Huey, D.; Hu, J.C.; Athanasiou, K.A.:  Unlike bone, cartilage regeneration remains elusive, Science, 338:917-921, DOI: 10.1126/science.1222454, 2012.  Podcasts available at full show- http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6109/981.2.full.  This particular segment is at http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6109/917/suppl/DC2

DuRaine, G.D.; Athanasiou, K.A.: ERK activation is required for hydrostatic pressure induced changes in engineered articular cartilage, Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, doi: 10.1002/term.1678, 2012.

Dowling, E.P.; Roman, W.; Ofek, G.; Deshpande, V.S.; McMeeking, R.M.; Athanasiou, K.A.; McGarry, J.P.: The effect of remodelling and contractility of the actin cytoskeleton on the shear resistance of single cells: A computational and experimental investigation, Journal of the Royal Society of Interfaces, doi: 10.1098/rsif.2012.0428, 2012.

Responte, D.; Natoli, R.M.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Identification of potential biophysical and molecular signaling mechanisms underlying hyaluronic acid enhancement of cartilage formation, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, doi:10.1098/rsif.2012.0399, 2012.

Responte, D.J.; Lee, J.K.; Hu, J.C.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Biomechanics-driven chondrogenesis: from embryo to adult, FASEB Journal, 26(9):3614-24, 2012.

Responte, D.J.; Arzi, B.; Natoli, R.M.; Hu, J.C.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Mechanisms underlying the synergistic enhancement of self-assembled neocartilage treated with chondroitinase-ABC and TGF-β1, Biomaterials, 33:3187-3194, 2012.

Sanchez-Adams, J.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Biomechanics of meniscus cells: regional variation and comparison to articular chondrocytes and ligament cells, Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology, DOI 10.1007/s10237-012-0372-0, 11:1047-1056, 2012.

Arzi, B.; Wisner, E.R.; Huey, D.J.; Kass, P.H.; Hu, J.C.; Athanasiou, K.A.: A proposed model of naturally occurring osteoarthritis in the domestic rabbit, Lab Animal, 41(1):20-25, 2012.

Willard, V.P.; Kalpakci, K.N.; Reimer, A.J.; Athanasiou, K.A.: The regional contribution of glycosaminoglycans to temporomandibular joint disc compressive properties, Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, 134/011011, 2012.

Sanchez-Adams, J.; Athanasiou, K.A.: Dermis isolated adult stem cells for cartilage tissue engineering, Biomaterials, 33(1):109-119, 2012.

Arzi, B.; Willard, P.V.; Huey, D.J.; Verstraete; F.J.M.; Vapniarsky-Arzi, N; Athanasiou, K.A.: The temporomandibular joint disc of Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and African elephant (Loxodonta africana), European Journal of Wildlife Research, 58(2):451-459, 2012.

Sanchez-Adams, J.;  Athanasiou, K.A.: Regional effects of enzymatic digestion on knee meniscus cell yield and phenotype for tissue engineering, Tissue Engineering, Part C, 18(3):235-243, 2012.

Sun, Y.; Responte, D.R.; Xie, H.; Liu, J.; Fatakdawala, H.; Hu, J.; Athanasiou, K.A.; Marcu, L.: Nondestructive evaluation of tissue engineered articular cartilage using time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy and ultrasound backscatter microscopy, Tissue Engineering Part C: Methods, 18(3):215-226, 2012.

Huey, D.; Sanchez-Adams, J.; Willard, V.P.; Athanasiou, K.A.:  Immunogenicity of leporine and bovine articular chondrocytes and meniscus cells to leporine mononuclear cells, Tissue Engineering: Part A, 18(5 and 6): 568-575, 2012.

Willard, V.P.; Arzi, B.; Athanasiou, K.A.: The attachments of the temporomandibular joint disc: A biochemical and histological investigation, Archives of Oral Biology, 57(6):599-606, 2012.

McNary, S.; Athanasiou, K.A.; Reddi, A.H.: Engineering lubrication in articular cartilage, J Tissue Engineering, Part B, 18(2):88-100, 2012.