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Dianne Little, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS, DACVS

Dianne Little, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS, DACVS
Assistant Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery

The long-term goal of the Little Laboratory is to improve results of rotator cuff tear repair, particularly for those tears and patient populations that do not respond well to current surgical options. Up to 47 million Americans have a rotator cuff tear; this condition is particularly common in older adults as the result of a progressive degenerative process. Many of these degenerative tears progress to cause pain and loss of shoulder movement and function. The Little Laboratory is tackling this important clinical problem by:

  • Developing approaches to rotator cuff tendon tissue engineering and regeneration of the tendon-bone interface using novel multi-layered nanofiber technologies and biomaterials to recapitulate the native architecture of the rotator cuff tendons and their insertion onto the humeral head. Mechanistic studies using micro-patterning approaches aim to understand how stem cells interact with biomaterials to induce engineered tendon formation, and will ultimately enhance rapid development of a functional engineered rotator cuff in vivo.
  • Advancing understanding of how rotator cuff tendons degenerate and develop tendinopathy in response to various environmental and systemic factors. This is critical to the future success of regenerative medicine approaches, particularly if the patient’s own stem cells are to be used for these approaches. Therefore, the Little Lab is working with others to develop integrated approaches to understand how systemic and environmental factors modify the function of the genome and ultimately the form and function of stem cells, tendon, and other musculoskeletal tissues.

The Little Lab is the Duke Orthopaedics host for the Perry Outreach Programs, which inspire young women to be leaders in orthopaedic surgery and engineering. Dr. Little is also developing new mentoring programs in collaboration with Grant Garrigues, MD to provide bedside clinical experiences and bench-top research experiences for pre-med individuals from groups currently underrepresented in orthopaedic surgery who aspire to a career in this field.

The Little Lab has developed prototype patches for rotator cuff repair that recapitulate the normal structure of rotator cuff tendon, and has shown fundamental differences in protein composition of tendons and ligaments from men and women.

Current Projects

  • Evaluation of various novel multi-layered nanofiber technologies and biomaterials for rotator cuff tendon tissue engineering
  • Mechanistic studies using microphotopatterning to evaluate cell-matrix interactions critical for engineered tendon development and aligned collagen formation
  • Integrated multi-omic studies to evaluate stem cell dysfunction in aging and obesity, engineered tendon development, and response of tendon and musculoskeletal tissues to systemic and environmental factors
  • In collaboration with Dr. Grant Garrigues, evaluating the mechanism of anterior joint capsule dysfunction in patients undergoing total shoulder arthroplasty

Selected Publications & Grants




  • Dianne Little, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS, DACVS, Principal Investigator
  • Sean Meehan, MS, Research Analyst
  • Austin Allen, BS, Master’s Degree Candidate, Department of Biomedical Engineering
  • Reid McCabe, BS, Master’s Degree Candidate, Biomedical Sciences
  • Tommy Jenkins II, Senior Undergraduate Student, Department of Biomedical Engineering
  • Ashwin Prakash, Junior Undergraduate Student, Department of Biomedical Engineering
  • Mohammed Omer, BS, Third Year Medical Student


Please contact Dr. Little by email to inquire about current openings in the laboratory.


Orthopaedic Research Laboratories
Medical Sciences Research Building, 203 Research Drive, Room 375
DUMC Box 3093, Durham, NC 27710