Research at The Osteopathic Research Center

We invite you to explore this section to learn more about the scope of research conducted at our center.

The ORC carries out a three-pronged research mission through which it conducts: clinical trials to explore the efficacy and effectiveness of osteopathic manipulation for different conditions, mechanistic research that evaluates the underlying mechanisms of action of osteopathic manipulation, and health services and policy research to determine and evaluate the unique practice characteristics of osteopathic physicians and to provide the scientific evidence to support osteopathic medicine. Since it was founded in 2002, the ORC has garnered more than $21 million to conduct and advance osteopathic research.

One area of the ORC's research portfolio focuses on conducting clinical trials on the efficacy of osteopathic manipulation. The OSTEOPAThic Health outcomes In Chronic low back pain: The OSTEOPATHIC Trial, led by ORC Executive Director and principal investigator, John Licciardone, DO, MS, MBA, concluded subject visits in January 2011. This study, funded by a K24 Midcareer Investigator grant (NIH: K24 AT002422) from the National Institutes of Health-National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, is one of the largest clinical trials on spinal manipulation in the world. We anticipate that data from this study will be released in 2012. Additional financial support for this project was also received from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation.

Lisa M. Hodge, PhD, the ORC's Osteopathic Heritage Basic Science Research Chair, leads much of the In the mechanisms of action research for the ORC. Her work focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of osteopathic manipulative treatments (OMT) at modulating the immune response during infection, inflammatory diseases and cancer. To date, studies conducted in Dr. Hodge's laboratory and in the laboratory of H. Fred Downey, PhD, Regents Professor, have shown that the application of OMT increases lymph flow, leukocyte numbers, and mucosal derived lymphocytes in the thoracic duct. Furthermore, pilot studies indicate that OMT reduces pneumonia bacteria and tumors in the lungs. It is likely that by enhancing the lymphatic redistribution of lymphocytes, OMT increases pulmonary trafficking of leukocytes with biological activities; however, the exact mechanism by which OMT is protective in our model is still under investigation. The results obtained from these studies will provide an evidence base for the use or contraindication of OMT in patients with infection, inflammatory disease or cancer. This research is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH: U19 AT002023, R01 AT004361), the American Osteopathic Association (AOA: 06-11-547, 08-11-573), and by the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation. Dr. Hodge's research team also analyzes specific immunological biomarkers to determine if they increase or decrease in response to osteopathic manipulative treatment. Other mechanism of action research underway at the ORC includes working in conjunction with the University of North Texas Health Science Center's world-renowned Center for Human Identification and Institute for Investigative Genetics to determine if there are genetic differences in people who respond to treatment with osteopathic manipulation compared to those who do not.

Through its health services and policy division, the ORC performs systematic reviews of the literature, conducts population-based surveys and analyzes national health care databases to determine the unique practice characteristics of osteopathic physicians. Recent projects in this area include completion of a 1,000 household random-digit dial telephone survey to assess the awareness and use of osteopathic physicians and to ascertain people's opinions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that was signed into law March 23, 2010. The survey was conducted in conjunction with the University of North Texas Survey Research Center in Denton, Texas. Funding for the project was provided by the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation. We anticipate that data from this project will be released in 2012. One other project in this research area includes an analysis of data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey looking at distinctive practice patterns of osteopathic physicians. A manuscript of the results of this study is currently under review for publication. This project was funded by the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation. Another funded project in this arena is Cost-Effectiveness of Osteopathic Health Care: A National Study Based on the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. This project, funded by the American Osteopathic Association, will assess the cost of osteopathic medical care in comparison to care provided by allopathic physicians and other health care professionals.

One additional major project underway at the ORC cuts across several areas of research. The Consortium for Collaborative Osteopathic Research Development - Practice Based Research Network (CONCORD-PBRN) focuses on training osteopathic physicians and scientists across the country to conduct patient-oriented research. Each year, a minimum of eight individuals will receive a minimum of 162 hours of instruction in conducting patient-oriented research. These physicians and scientists will then work with the ORC for a minimum of two years to contribute data from their clinical practices. Specific projects will be implemented in the PBRN as the first year of didactic training comes to a close. Our vision is that data from these projects will continue to build the evidence base for the clinical effectiveness of osteopathic treatment, help define the mechanisms of action and response to osteopathic treatment, and augment data available in national databases relative to the unique practice characteristics of osteopathic physicians.