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Current Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Devina Purmessur, PhD

Dr. Devina Purmessur

BS (Honors): Medical Biochemistry, University of Sheffield UK

MS (with Distinction): Immunology and Allergy, University of Nottingham UK

PhD: Molecular Pathology, University of Manchester UK

Postdoctoral training: Spine Bioengineering labs of Dr James Iatridis, University of Vermont and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai NYC, USA

My background is in cell and molecular biology of the intervertebral disc (IVD) with a particular focus on understanding the pathobiology of disease mechanisms for therapeutic effect. I am currently an Assistant Professor (Tenure track) in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Spine Research Institute at the Ohio State University. I collaborate with Dr William Marras, Professor in Intergrated systems engineering and Director of the Spine Research Institute, clinicians in the Department of Orthopedics Dr Safdar Khan, and Elizabeth Yu, and Veterinary surgeon Dr Sarah Moore. I recently transitioned from Instructor in the Department of Orthopedics in New York where I worked with Dr James Iatridis to develop a Spine pain program at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Our research interests lie in understanding how the IVD microenvironment (cellular, biochemical and mechanical) in development, growth and aging influence pain pathways in discogenic back pain with a focus on neurovascular ingrowth and sensitization and developing suitable in vitro and clinically relevant in vivo animal models for clinical translation of therapeutic strategies.

Research Staff

Nina Tang - Lab Manager

Nina is a Research Assisstant and Lab Manager in the Spine Therapeutics Lab who graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.S in Biomedical Engineering in 2017. Her objective in life is to pursue a career in medicine that integrates biomedical engineering qualities in an effort to advance global healthcare for the underprivileged community. Her research interest include biological pathways of discogenic back pain, biomaterials, tissue engineering and cancer genetics. In her free time she enjoys training in martial arts, playing tennis and art. 


Graduate Students

Katie Lakstins - Ph.D Student

Katie is currently pursuing her PhD in Biomedical Engineering. She received her undergraduate degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 2016. Outside the lab she enjoys spending time with friends, being involved in the Biomedical Engineering Graduate School Association, doing crossfit, rock climbing, hiking, and hanging out with her two cats.


Kelly Thompson - MS/DVM Student

Kelly Thompson is a combined Master of Science and DVM student at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.  In the lab she studies the immune and inflammatory responses within the canine degenerate intervertebral disc.  Outside of the lab, Kelly enjoys dancing, reading, attending concerts, and spending time with her rabbit.

Undergraduate Students

Emma Wittmann

Emma Wittman is a Biomedical Engineering pre-medicine major, expecting to graduate in May 2019. Emma studies the effects of L-Lactate on the intervertebral disc and the role it plays in disc degeneration. Outside of lab she enjoys volunteering at Grant Medical Center, playing on the Ohio State Club Softball team, and promoting fellow females through her sorority.


Justin Richards

Justin Richards is a forth year Biology major. He is  interested in all things having to do with orthopedics, specifically as they pertain to physiology of the musculoskeletal system. On campus, He is involved as a member of Beta Theta Pi, and President of Ministry in Mission, organizing mission trips to Haiti for students on Ohio State's campus. After his undergraduate degree, he would like to pursue medical school with the goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon

Lauren Arnold

Lauren is a forth year Biomedical Engineering major, Neuroscience minor at The Ohio State University. She is working with Katie to study the effect of the calcification of the cartilage end plate on the degeneration of the intervertebral disc. Outside of the lab, Lauren is a member of Phi Sigma Rho Sorority and H2O Church. She enjoys reading, hiking, exploring, and music.



Gilian Gunsch

Gilian is a second year Biology major in the ASC Honors Program. In the lab, she helps research pain pathways in the intervertebral disc relating to immmune cell modulation. On campus, Gilian is a part of various student organizations such as Helix and CHAARG. She also enjoys listening to music, reading and running.