Research Director, Back Pain & Engineered Therapeutics Laboratory;
Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering;

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Orthopaedics;
University of Utah

Robby D. Bowles, PhD‘s lab is focused on engineering cell function to better control tissue development in engineered tissues. We use recent advances in CRISPR genome engineering and epigenetic control of gene expression to precisely control cell activity in engineered tissues. We are specifically interested in applying these techniques for use in tissue engineering, gene therapy, and immunoengineering to modulate tissue development and intervertebral disc degeneration for the treatment of back pain. Back pain is a leading cause of disability, which has a huge economic burden and causes great suffering to the patient. Our key focus is modulating the interactions between the biomechanics of the intervertebral disc, the inflammatory environment in the intervertebral disc, and the peripheral nervous system in these patients.

Current Projects

  1. CRISPR Cell Engineering – Engineer cells to promote functional tissue development in pathological environments.
  2. Intervertebral Disc Tissue Engineering – Engineer intervertebral disc tissue that thrives in an inflammatory environment and produces a mechanically functional and restorative tissue
  3. Mechanisms of Back Pain – Study the interactions between the mechanics of the intervertebral disc, the peripheral nervous system, and inflammation to better understand the underlying molecular events that lead to back pain.


  • Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award
  • Kewaunee Postdoctoral Achievement Award, Center for Biomolecular & Tissue Engineering, Duke University

Select Publications