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Research Team

Thomas Clemens

Thomas Clemens, Ph.D.

Thomas Clemens is the Lewis Cass Spencer professor of orthopaedic surgery and the vice chair for research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Clemens received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of London and completed postdoctoral training as a research fellow in medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Clemens was an associate professor in medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he founded a master’s program in biomedical sciences. Subsequently, he was a professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati, where he directed the Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine graduate program.

In 2004, Dr. Clemens became director of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he established a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-funded Med into Grad doctoral program.

Dr. Clemens’ research is focused on identification of the cellular and molecular mechanisms, which control bone osteoblast activity. He has authored more than 150 original publications, and has published a number of book chapters. He has served as a council member of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research and was the program co-chair for the 2002 national meeting. He is the immediate past editor-in-chief of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Zhu Li

Zhu Li, Ph.D.

Dr. Zhu Li received his M.D. degree at Dalian Medical University in China in 1989.

Before he joined Thomas Clemens’ lab at Johns Hopkins University in 2010, Dr. Li worked at other institutions in North America including The University of Chicago, The University of Western Ontario in Canada and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

In addition to working on his research projects, Dr. Li is a lab manager — in that role he helps order lab supplies, monitor expenses and budgets, manage the day-to-day running of the lab, and assure laboratory compliance with regulatory requirements and Johns Hopkins University standards, policies and procedures.

“My work concerns the role of sensory nerves in skeletal repair. In order to determine the requirement of NGF-dependent TrkA sensory nerves in bone repair, we use a well-characterized mouse model of nondisplaced, stress fracture by damaging forelimb compression to determine the cellular source(s) of NGF and its spatial and temporal relationship to TrkA sensory re-innervation of bone using Thy1-YFP and NGF-eGFP reporter mice and TrkA genetic models.” 

Robert Tower

Robert Tower, Ph.D.

Originally from Canada, Dr. Robert Tower earned his Ph.D. in the department of Radiology and Neuroradiology at the Christian-Albrecht University of Kiel in Northern Germany where he used the favorable bone targeting properties of bisphosphonates to develop new in vivo imaging approaches and targeted anti-tumor therapeutics.

Prior to joining the Clemens lab in June, 2019, Dr. Tower worked at KU Leuven in Belgium, as well as the University of Pennsylvania to understand the role of the vasculature in bone development, homeostasis and repair. Currently, Dr. Tower works on the role of sensory innervation in the bone. This project makes use of in vitro microfluidics, culturing bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) and primary neurons isolated from dorsal root ganglia, Thy1-YFP and NGF-GFP reporter mice, and a transgenic model of TrkA sensory nerve disruption. Using wholemount sections and confocal imaging, as well as single-cell sequencing and spatial transcriptomics, this project aims to unravel the role of sensory innervation in the bone during development and homeostasis, as well as the neural-derived factors responsible for these effects.

Qian Zhang

Qian Zhang, Ph.D.

Qian Zhang received her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from the Institute for Nutritional Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"Patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of bone fractures. Recent studies have shown that bone cells produce endocrine factors that can regulate both bone remodeling and energy metabolism. In my study, I am using knockout mice to identify the role of these factors in regulating bone and energy metabolism. My studies should help to clarify the communication of bone and other metabolic tissues."