Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Nam Vo, PhD

  • Associate Professor

Nam Vo received his PhD degree with Dr. Michael Chamberlin in Biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1998 and completed his post-doctoral training with Dr. Michael Lai at the University of Southern California in 2003. His doctorate research involved detailed molecular analyses of the early stages of E. coli transcription. He continued his training by studying the mechanism and regulation of hepatitis C virus RNA replication, initially as a postdoctoral fellow and subsequently as an assistant specialist in Dr. Caroline Kane at the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Vo also taught Introductory Microbiology at Contra Costa College in 2005–06. Dr. Vo joined the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery of UPMC as a research assistant professor in 2006.

Education & Training

  • Post-doctoral, University of California Keck School of Medicine
  • PhD, University of California at Berkeley

Representative Publications

1. Nasto LA *, Wang D, Robinson AR, Clauson CL, Ngo K*, Dong Q, Roughley P, Epperly M, Huq SM, Pola E, Sowa G, Robbins PD, Kang J, Niedernhofer LJ, Vo NV#. Genotoxic stress accelerates age-associated degenerative changes in intervertebral discs. Mech Ageing Dev. 2013 Jan;134(1-2):35-42. Impact Factor=3.5. No of citation= 4. 

2. Jacobs L*, Vo N, Coehlo JP, Dong Q, Bechara B, Woods B, Hempen E*, Hartman R, Preuss H, Balk J, Kang J, Sowa G. Glucosamine Supplementation Demonstrates a Negative Effect On Intervertebral Disc Matrix in an Animal Model of Disc Degeneration. Spine. 2013 May 20;38(12)984-90. Impact Factor=2.4.  No of citation= 4. 

3. Nasto, Luigi*; Robison, Andria; Ngo, Kevin*; Dong, Qing; Croix, Claudette; Sowa, Gwendolyn; Pola, Enrico; Robbins, Paul; Kang, James; Niedernhofer, Laura; Wipf, Peter; Vo,Nam. Mitochondrial-derived reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a causal role in aging-related intervertebral disc degeneration. J Orthop. Res.  2013 Jul;31(7):1150-7. Impact Factor=3.0.  No of citation=7.

4. Nasto L *, Seo, H-Y *,  Robinson, AR,  Tilstra, JS, Clauson, CL, Sowa, GA,  Ngo, K*, Dong,Q,  Pola, E,   Lee, JY,  Niedernhofer, LJ,  Kang, JD, Robbins, PD,  Vo, NV #.  Inhibition of NFKB Activity Ameliorates Age-Associated Disc Degeneration In A Mouse Model Of Accelerated Aging. Spine 2012 Oct 1;37(21):1819-1825. Impact Factor=2.2.  No of citation=12

5. Dong Wang *, Luigi A Nasto *, Peter Roughley, Adriana S. Leme, McGarry Houghton, Arvydas Usas, Gwendolyn Sowa, Joon Lee, Laura Niedernhofer, Steven Shapiro, JamesKang, Nam Vo. Spine degeneration in a murine model of chronic human tobacco smokers.Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. 2012 Aug;20(8):896-905. Impact Factor=4.3. No of citation= 12.

6. Vo, NV; Seo, H *; Robinson, A; Sowa, G; Bentley, D*; Taylor, L;  Studer, R; Usas, A; Huard, J; Alber, S; Watkins, S; Lee, J; Coehlo, P; Wang, D; Loppini*, M; Robbins, P; Niedernhofer L; Kang, J. Accelerated aging of intervertebral discs in a mouse model of progeria. J Orthop Res. 2010 Dec; 28(12):1600-7.  Impact Factor=3.0. No of citation= 24.

Research Interests

Dr. Vo is currently working in the Ferguson Spine Research Laboratory to investigate the molecular and cellular processes responsible for intervertebral disc diseases, with special emphasis on understanding gene regulation of the major disc extracellular matrix constituents.

In addition, he is active in teaching medical students, medical residents, post-doctoral fellows, having trained over 50 trainees on research projects, 22 of whom have won awards for their work, including the prestigious Outstanding Paper Award at the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine Annual Meeting in 2008. He was named the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Teacher of the Year Award in 2007 and was named the Young Academician of the Year by the Association of Academic Physiatrists in 2009. He is also actively involved in training future clinician scientists as an Assistant Dean for Medical Student Research.

Dr. Vo has been actively engaged in teaching and mentoring students and postdoctoral fellows. He has served as a research advisor for over 50 trainees, many of whom have garnered noteworthy research awards and fellowships while under his mentorship. He also regularly lectures in graduate courses at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health and School of Medicine. These include the Pathophysiology of Environmental Disease (EOH 3210) in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and the Extracellular Matrix in Tissue Biology and Bioengineering (MSCMP 3735) in the Departments of Pathology. In addition, Dr.Vo has been serving as a facilitator in Evidence-Based Medicine Applied and in Investigation and Discovery, the first year medical school courses in the Scientific Reasoning in Medicine Block.   

Research Grants

Albert B. Ferguson Jr, M.D. Orthopaedic Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation. AD2014-73915-11

Elucidating a novel mechanism of intervertebral disc degeneration through catabolic actions of endothelial microparticles. 

PI, 3% 2014-2015 



Albert B. Ferguson Jr, M.D. Orthopaedic Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation. AD2014-73915-09

Electron microscope features of degenerated intervertebral discs with emphasis on neovascularization and endothelial cell-derived microparticles. 

C0-PI, 2% 2014-2015 



UPMC funding support of the Mitochondria, Aging, and Metabolism(MAM) working group

Biological aging across the life span: from molecules to man.

Co-I,  14% 2014-2015 



AO Start-Up Grant S-13-176N

Gene therapy targeting of NF-kB signaling to slow down disc degeneration in a rabbit model

Co-I, 5% 2013-2015 



UPMC pilot program: Competitive Intramural

Identification of Biomarkers predictive of response to spinal injections

Co-PI, 5% 2012-2014 



NIH/NIAR01 AG044376-01 

The role of cellular senescence in intervertebral disc aging

PI, 45%