Carolinas HealthCare System

Helen E. Gruber, PhDHelen E. Gruber, PhD
Senior Scientist and Director, Orthopaedic Research Biology
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
Graduate Faculty, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Adjunct Professor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Prior Positions and Experience

1994-present Senior Scientist and Director of Research Histology, Orthopaedic Research Lab, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Carolinas Medical Center
1993-94 Adjunct Associate Professor, Oral Biology and Pediatrics, University of California,
Los Angeles
1991-93 Research Scientist III, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles)
1991-93 Assoc. Researcher II, Department of Pediatrics, U.C.L.A.
1986-91 Research Scientist II and Director, Skeletal Dysplasia Morphology Lab, Department of Pediatrics, Medical Genetics-Birth Defects Center, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
(Los Angeles)
1986-89 Assistant Researcher IV, Dept. Pediatrics, U.C.L.A.
1984-86 Assistant Professor of Research Medicine, University of Southern California (Los Angeles)
1981-84 Research Fellow, University of Southern California School of Medicine (Los Angeles)
1978-81 Research Instructor of Medicine, University of Washington (Seattle, Wash.)
1976-78 Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Iowa


PhD: 1976, Oregon State University (Corvallis, Ore.)
MS: 1974, Oregon State University (Corvallis, Ore.)
BS: 1969, University of Idaho (Moscow, ID)
Postdoctoral Fellowship: 1976-78, University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA)

Research Interests

Dr. Gruber’s research interests have been primarily in the areas of bone and cartilage and currently focus on the intervertebral disc and disc degeneration. She has authored 208 peer-reviewed scientific articles, has numerous chapters and articles, and has been a co-investigator on an NIH-funded RO1 grant on the osteopenic effects of low magnesium intake. Current research efforts focus primarily on intervertebral disc degeneration and changes in the aging disc. Her research on the disc with Dr. Hanley has received funding support from the North American Spine Society, The Cervical Spine Research Society, and the AO Research Fund of the AO Foundation (Arbeitsgemeinschaft fur Osteosynthesefragen), Dübendorf, Switzerland. In 2012, she received the prestigious Henry Farfan Award for outstanding contributions in spine-related basic science research.

Recent Publications

Gruber HE, R. Deepe, GL Hoelscher, JA Ingram, HJ Norton, B Scannell, B Loeffler, N Zinchenko, EN Hanley, Jr., and H Tapp. Human Adipose-derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells: Direction to a Phenotype Sharing Similarities with the Disc, Gene Expression Profiling, and Co-culture with Human Annulus Cells. Tissue Engineering, Part A.16(9):2843-2860, 2010. [PMID: 20408770]

Gruber HE, Hoelscher GL, Ingram JA, Zinchenko N, Hanley EN: Senescent vs non-senescent cells in the in vivo human annulus: Cell harvest with laser capture microdissection and gene expression studies. BMC Biotechnology 2010, 10:5. [PMID: 20109216]

Gruber, H.E., Hoelscher, G.L., Hanley, E.N. Jr.: Annulus cells from more degenerated human discs show modified gene expression in 3D culture compared to expression in cells from healthier discs. The Spine Journal 10:721-727, 2010 [PMID: 20650410]

Bischoff, D.S., Sakamoto, T., Ishida, K., Makhijani, N., Gruber HE, Yamaguchi, D.T.CXC receptor knockout mice:Characterization of skeletal features and membranous bone healing in the adult mouse. Bone, 48:267-274, 2011. [PMID: 20870046]

Gruber, HE, Watts, JA, Hoelscher, GL, Bethea, S, Ingram JA, Zinchenko N, Hanley, EN Jr: Mitochondrial gene expression in the human annulus: In vivo data from annulus cells and from selectively harvested senescent annulus cells. The Spine J. In press, 2011. [PMID: 21784712]

Gruber HE, Hoelscher, GL, Ingram JA, Bethea, S, Zinchenko, N., Hanley, EN Jr. Variations in aggrecan localization and gene expression patterns characterize increasing stages of human intervertebral disk degeneration. Experimental and Molecular Pathology. 91:534-539, 2011. [PMID: 21689646]

Gruber HE, Ingram, JA, Hoelscher, GL, Zinchenko, N., Norton, HJ, Hanley, EN. Constitutive Expression of Cathepsin K in the Human Intervertebral Disc: New Insight into Disc Extracellular Matrix Remodeling via Cathepsin K and Receptor Activator of Nuclear Factor-κB Ligand (RANKL).Arthritis Res & Therapy, 2011 Aug. 31; 13(4)R140. [PMID: 21880134].

Das Roy, Ghosh S,Pathangey, L, Tinder T, Gruber HE, Mukherjee P. Collagen induced arthritis increases secondary metastasis in MMTV-PyV MT mouse model of mammary cancer. BMC Cancer2011, 11:365-385. [PMID: 21859454]

Gruber, HE, Hoelscher, GL, Ingram JA, Hanley EN:Matrix metalloproteinase-26, a novel MMP, is constitutively expressed in the human intervertebral disc in vivo and in vitro. Experimental and Molecular Pathology, in press, 2011. [PMID:21945733]

Gruber, HE, Riley F, Hoelscher GL, Bayoumi E, Ingram JA, Ramp WK, Bosse M, Kellam J:    Osteogenic and Chondrogenic Potential in Biomembrane Cells from the PMMA-Segmental Defect Rat Model.  J. Orthopaedic Res.   30:1198-1212, 2012.   [PMID: 22246998]

Montijo, H.E., Kellam, J.F., Bosse, MJ, Gettys, F.K., Starman, J., Nelson, K., Bayoumi, E.M., and Gruber HE:   Utilization of the AO Locking Rat Nail in a novel rat femur critical defect model. J. Investigative Surgery.  25:381-386, 2012.  [PMID:23215795]

Gruber, H.E., Rhyne A, Hansen, K.J., Phillips, R.C., Hoelscher, G.L., Ingram, J.A., Norton, H.J., Hanley, E.N.:  Deleterious effects of discography radiocontrast solution on human annulus cell in vitro:  Changes in cell viability, proliferation, and apoptosis in exposed cells. The Spine Journal 12(4):329-335, 2012.   [PMID: 22424848]

Gruber, HE, Hoelscher GL, Ingram JA, Hanley, EN.  Genome-wide Analysis of Pain-, Nerve- and Neurotrophin-Related Gene Expression in the Degenerating Human Annulus.  Molecular Pain, 2012, 8:63. [PMID:  22963171]

Gruber HE, Hoelscher GL, Bethea S, Hanley, EN:  Interleukin 1-beta Upregulates Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, Neurotrophin 3 and Neuropilin 2 Gene Expression and NGF Production in Annulus Cells.  Biotechnic & Histochem.  87(8):506-511, 2012.   [PMID:22853041]

Loeffler, BJ, Scannell, BP, Peindl RD, Connor, P, Davis, DE, Hoelscher, GL, Norton, HJ, Hanley, EN, Gruber, HE:  Cell-Based Tissue Engineering Augments Tendon-to-Bone Healing in a Rat Supraspinatus Model.  J Orthopaedic Research, 31:407-412, 2013.  [PMID:23070709]

Das Roy, L., Curry, J.M., Sahraei, M., Besmer, D.M.,  Kidiyoor, A., Gruber, H.E.,   Mukherjee, P.  Arthritis augments breast cancer metastasis: role of mast cells and SCF/c-Kit signaling.  Breast Cancer Research, 15:R32, 2013. [PMID:23577751]

Gruber HE, Watts, JA, Riley FE, Fulkerson M-B, Norton, HJ, Hanley EN.  Mitochondrial bioenergetics, mass and morphology are altered in cells of the degenerating human intervertebral annulus.   J. Orthopaedic Research, 13(8):1270-1275, 2013.  [PMID:23575904]

Gruber, HE, Hoelscher GL, Ingram JA, Norton, HJ, Hanley, EN.  Increased IL-17 expression in more degenerated human discs, and increased production in cultured annulus cells exposed to IL-1beta and TNF-alpha. Biotechnic & Histochemistry.  88(6):302-310, 2013.  [PMID:  23627571]

Gruber HE, Gettys, FK, Montijo, HE, Starman, JS, Bayoumi E, Nelson KJ, Hoelscher G, Ramp, WK, Zinchenko N, Ingram, J, Bosse MJ, Kellam JF.  Genome-wide molecular and biologic characterization of biomembrane formation adjacent to a methacrylate spacer in the rat femoral segmental defect model.  J. Orthopaedic Trauma, 27:290-297, 2013.  [PMID:22963171]

Current, Recent and Pending Grant Support

Grant title:  Do human annulus cells actively try to repel nerve ingrowth into the disc? 
Funding Agency:  North American Spine Society
Role:  PI
Years: 2014

Grant title:  The proinflammatory cytokine IL-17 and human disc degeneration
Funding Agency:  Smith Arthritis Fund
Role:  PI
Years: 2013

Grant title:  Proinflammatory cytokine production by human disc cells in vitro
Funding Agency:  Smith Arthritis Fund
Role:  PI
Years: 2012

Grant title:  Expression of the osteoarthritis-associated protein asporin in severely degenerated human intervertebral disc cells.
Funding Agency:  Smith Arthritis Fund
Role:  PI
Years: 2011

Grant Title:Does cytokine stimulation of PAPP-A regulate IGF bioavailability in the disc?
Funding Agency:AO Research Foundation
Role: Principal Investigator
Years: 2009 - 2011

Grant Title: Biomembrane formation in the rat femur segmental defect model: Assessment of osteogenic potential, gene expression and bone formation.
Funding Agency: AO Research Institute
Role: Principal Investigator
Years: 2009 - 2011

Grant Title: Expression of the osteoarthritis-associated protein asporin in severely degenerated human intervertebral disc cells.
Funding Agency: Smith Arthritis Fund
Role: Principal Investigator
Years: 2009 - 2011

Grant Title: Foreign-body induced "biomembranes" in segmental bone defects: Histologic, immunohistochemical and gene expression properties in a rat model.
Funding Agency: Orthopaedic Trauma Association
Role: Co-Investigator
Years: 2009