Louis DeFrate
Principal Investigator
Laszlo Ormandy Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery
Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering
Affiliate of the Duke Regeneration Center
Contact Information


Our laboratory applies engineering principles to study clinically relevant musculoskeletal system problems. We evaluate in vivo biomechanics using advanced radiographic and MRI techniques, which enables us to investigate soft tissue structure, composition, and function in healthy and diseased states. We develop volumetric models of joints (including the ankle, knee, shoulder, hip, and spine) and soft tissue structures (such as ligaments, tendons, articular cartilage, and intervertebral discs) from 3D MRI scans and use custom software to evaluate mechanical function during in vivo loading (activities of daily living, walking running, strenuous exercise, etc.). We also use optical motion analysis to capture joint-level kinematics during dynamic motions (gait, landing) and simultaneously acquire high-speed biplanar radiographs to evaluate concurrent soft tissue deformations. Combining this data with MRI sequences that non-invasively quantify tissue composition and local and systemic biomarkers of tissue metabolism, we can perform a full-spectrum analysis of joint biomechanical health.


Visit Dr. DeFrate’s Google Scholar page to view our lab’s publications.

Select a tab to learn more about our research group:


Learn more about our research group:


Orthopaedic Surgery CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic
Cook Medical Senior R&D Engineer
Emergency Medicine Oregon Anesthesiology Group
Orthopaedic Research Group Alaska
Parkridge Medical Group Spine Surgery Associates
University of Colorado General Surgery Resident
Assistant Professor University of Florida Health
Scientific Review Officer, NIH
Duke University School of Medicine
Mayo Clinic Orthopaedic Surgeon Sports Medicine Specialist
Exponent Biomechanics Associate
Duke University School of Medicine
Clinical Instructor, Neurology, Perelman School of Medicine
Delaney Radiology
Senior Research Scientist, Applied Research Associates
Japan Exchange and Teaching Program
Intelligent Ultrasound
Brooks Rehabilitation Clinical Research Engineer
Columbia University Biomedical Engineering Lecturer in Discipline
UNC Gillings School of Public Health
MD/PhD Candidate Duke University Medical School
Chicago Medical School
Graduate Student Boston University
Resident, Temple University
Resident, Duke University School of Medicine
Teleflex Incorporated
Postdoctoral Researcher, Alman Lab, Duke Orthopaedics
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Stamford Health
Resident, Wake Forest University
Ochsner Orthopaedics
Assistant Professor, Emory Healthcare
Orthopaedic Surgery Fellow, Hospital for Special Surgery
Resident, UNC Orthopaedics
MD Candidate, Emory University School of Medicine
Duke Radiology
Medical Student, Keck Medicine of USC
Tulane School of Medicine
Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group
Resident, Henry Ford Health System
Intel Corporation Business Development & Product Implementation
Duke University School of Medicine
MicroPort Orthopaedics, Inc.
Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Emory University–The Emory Eye Center
Medline Industries, Inc.
Diagnostic Radiology Residency, Duke University
Cornell University Biomedical Engineering PhD


Selected Publications

Research Opportunities

If you want to join our research team, please contact Dr. Louis E. DeFrate, ScD, lou.defrate@duke.edu

Requisition Number: 174008
Job Listing: https://careers.duke.edu/job-invite/174008/
Date: January 24, 2022
Location: Durham, NC, US, 27710
Personnel Area: MEDICAL CENTER, School of Medicine:

Perform various complex technical duties involved in conducting physical, chemical, biological, and other research laboratory tests, experiments, and determinations to obtain data for research purposes; compile, analyze, document, and draw tentative conclusions from experimental results. Confer with the principal investigator to review work assignments and develop plans for research experiments; make minor modifications to existing laboratory procedures and techniques to meet the needs of the equipment as required. Review laboratory methods manual, scientific journals, abstracts, and other literature for information applicable to research experiments.

Determine and set up instruments, materials, and apparatus and operate laboratory equipment required for specific tests. Obtain, prepare, mount, and stain tissue, blood, and other substances for microscopic examination and flow cytometry. Run ELISA assays. Prepare culture media, chemicals, reagents, and solutions. Maintain sufficient inventory of material, supplies, and equipment for performing duties; clean and maintain laboratory equipment. Review work of lower-level laboratory personnel within designated areas and assist in training new personnel. Perform other related duties incidental to the work described herein.

News and Events


March 2022

Congratulations to Krystal Tamayo for publishing her work called “Obesity Impacts the Mechanical Response and Biochemical Composition of Patellofemoral Cartilage: An in vivo, MRI-based Investigation” in the Journal of Biomechanics. Co-authors include Lauren Heckelman, Chuck Spritzer, Lou DeFrate, and Amber Collins. You can read the paper here.

January 2022

Congratulations to Lauren Heckelman, PhD for being honored with the Graduate School’s Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching! This award celebrates graduate students who best exemplify the characteristics of effective college teaching as they prepare for lives of service, leadership, and teaching. You can read more about this honor here.

John Martin, PhD, recently published a new article entitled “Lumbar intervertebral disc diurnal deformations and T2 and T1rho relaxation times vary by spinal level and disc region” in the European Spine Journal. Co-authors include Alex Oldweiler, Andrzej Kosinski, Chuck Spritzer, Brian Soher, Melissa Erickson, Adam Goode, and Lou DeFrate. You can access the article here.


December 2021

Congratulations to Lauren Heckelman, PhD for defending her dissertation entitled “Multimodal Musculoskeletal Imaging Techniques to Non-Invasively Assess In Vivo Soft and Hard Tissue Biomechanics” on December 9, 2021. Way to go, Lauren!

Congratulations to Hattie Cutcliffe, PhD for publishing her work “Mechanical metrics may show improved ability to predict osteoarthritis compared to T1rho mapping” in the Journal of Biomechanics. Co-authors include Pavan Kottamasu, Amy McNulty, Adam Goode, Chuck Spritzer, and Lou DeFrate. You can read the paper here.

November 2021

Congratulations to Sophia Kim-Wang, PhD, for publishing her work “Immune cell profiles in synovial fluid after anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus injuries” in Arthritis Research & Therapy. Co-authors include Abigail Holt, Alyssa McGowan, Stephanie Danyluk, Adam Goode, Brian Lau, Alison Toth, Jocelyn Wittstein, Lou DeFrate, John Yi, and Amy McNulty. You can read the paper here.

Lauren Heckelman recently published a new article entitled “Diabetes is associated with a lower minimum moment of inertia among older women: An analysis of 3D reconstructions of clinical CT scans” in the Journal of Biomechanics. Co-authors include Ben Wesorick, Lou DeFrate, and Richard Lee. You can access the article here.

July 2021

Congratulations to our newest PhD candidate, James Coppock, for passing his preliminary exam! Way to go, James!

June 2021

Congratulations to Sophia Kim-Wang, PhD for successfully defending her dissertation on Wednesday, June 9. She will now complete her medical education at the Duke University School of Medicine en route to an MD-PhD. Best of luck, Sophia!

May 2021

Congratulations to James Coppock for publishing his work “Increasing BMI increases lumbar intervertebral disc deformation following a treadmill walking stress test” in the Journal of Biomechanics. Co-authors include Stephanie Danyluk, Zoë Englander, Chuck Spritzer, Adam Goode, and Lou DeFrate. You can read the paper here.

Congratulations to our very own Adam Goode, PT, DPT, PhD, and Lou DeFrate, ScD, for publishing an article entitled “Predictors of Lumbar Spine Degeneration and Low Back Pain in the Community: The Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project” in Arthritis Care & Research. You can read the article here.

March 2021

Zoë Englander, PhD, recently published a new article entitled “Patellar Tendon Orientation and Strain Are Predictors of ACL Strain In Vivo During a Single-Leg Jump” in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. Co-authors include Brian Lau, Jocelyn Wittstein, Adam Goode, and Lou DeFrate. You can access the article here. Congrats, Zoë!

February 2021

Bryan Crook recently published a new article entitled “Effect of walking on in vivo tibiofemoral cartilage strain in ACL-deficient versus intact knees” in the Journal of Biomechanics. Co-authors include Amber Collins, Nimit Lad, Chuck Spritzer, Jocelyn Wittstein, and Lou DeFrate. You can access the article here. Congrats, Bryan!

January 2021

Congratulations to Sophia Kim-Wang for publishing her work called “Distribution of Bone Contusion Patterns in Acute Noncontact Anterior Cruciate Ligament–Torn Knees” in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. Co-authors include Melissa Scribani, Michael Whiteside, Lou DeFrate, Tally Lassiter, and Jocelyn Wittstein. You can read the paper here.

Amber Collins, PhD, recently published a new article entitled “Obesity alters the collagen organization and mechanical properties of murine cartilage” in Scientific Reports. Co-authors include Guoli Hu, Hunter Newman, Michael Reinsvold, Monique Goldsmith, Jack Twomey-Kozak, Holly Leddy, Deepika Sharma, Leyao Shen, Lou DeFrate, and Courtney Karner. You can access the article here.