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Research

Scientific and Clinical Goals

The scientific goal of the NTM lab is to investigate the effect of mechanical loading on tissue physiology, pathology and restoration. The clinical goal of the NTM lab is to develop medical solutions that are not only effective and practical, but are economical.  This focus on cost-effective solutions is aimed at improving the quality and affordability of health care.

Our research incorporates experimental and computational biomechanics, imaging, biochemistry and mechanobiology.  The scientific field of mechanobiology originated with the observation that living systems adapt to their physical environment by altering their structural framework. This fundamental theory was first proposed by Wilhelm Roux in the 1880s to describe the functional adaption of bone to mechanical loading. In the past two-decades, computational advancements have enabled validation of many mechanobiological hypotheses and have helped determine the specific loading conditions and biological mechanisms that activate microstructural transformations. These findings have been instrumental to the emergence of novel bone fracture treatments. However, the role of mechanical signals in regulating soft-tissue repair and remodeling is poorly understood. This lack of knowledge has limited the availability of effective therapeutic options for pathologies that frequently develop in fibrous load-bearing tissues (e.g. ligament, tendon, meniscus). Moreover, the failure mechanisms responsible for many musculoskeletal disorders remain unknown, thus limiting our capacity to predict and prevent injury. The NTM lab is dedicated to advancing the field of mechanobiology, and is currently involved in the following projects:

Research Projects

Ligament Mechanobiology

Image of injured rabbit MCL with acute inflammationLigament injuries often result in short and long-term disability due to the mechanical inferiority of the healed tissue. Mechanical stimulation via manual therapy can increase collagen production and improve the speed and quality of ligament repair, yet little is understood about the specific loading protocols that are beneficial or detrimental. This project will use experimental and computational methods to clarify the benefits of manual therapy for ligament healing and a remodeling constitutive model will be developed to provide   guidelines for effective administration of this affordable treatment modality.

Pathomechanics of Meniscus Injury

Two images. A longitudinal meniscus tear on the left and a flap meniscus tear on the rightAcute meniscal tears have poor healing outcomes and account for ~15% of all surgeries at U.S. orthopaedic centers. Although extensive studies have determined that meniscus tears lead to osteoarthritis, the underlying pathomechanics of meniscus failure has not been described. Gaining a mechanistic understanding of the failure risk associated with loading conditions, joint morphology and microstructure will aid the development of treatment and prevention methods. The primary aim of this research is to develop and validate a failure model that predicts meniscus tears. The conclusions of this research will provide the foundation for future work in modeling treatment paradigms and determining biophysical factors that predispose individuals to meniscal tears.