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Understanding Load Impacts On Joints Could Lead To Better Surgical Approaches

Wed, 07/25/2012 - 7:40am

Led by Ahmet Erdemir, Ph.D., a team is leveraging the powerful computing systems of the Ohio Supercomputer Center to develop state-of-the-art computational representations of the human body to understand how movement patterns and loads on the joints deform surrounding tissues and cells. Erdemir is the director of the Computational Biomodeling Core and a faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Lerner Research Institute in Cleveland, Ohio.

“The aging process and debilitating diseases affect many aspects of the mechanical function of the human body: from the way we move to how our muscles, joints, tissues, and cells accommodate the loading exerted on the body during daily activities,” Erdemir explained. “Computational modeling techniques provide an avenue to obtain additional insights about mechanics at various spatial scales.”

Many macro-scale studies have looked at how the various components of a knee joint – cartilage, menisci, ligaments and bone – respond to weight and other external loads. However, Erdemir and colleague Scott C. Sibole wanted to better understand how those large mechanical forces correspond to the related deformation of individual cartilage cells – or chondrocytes – within the knee. Previous micro-scale studies of cartilage have not commonly been based on data from body-level scales, in particular, by the musculoskeletal mechanics of the knee joint.

In addition, calculated deformations typically have been for a single cell at the center of a 100-cubic-micrometer block of simulated tissue. Erdemir used an anatomically-based representation that calculated deformations for 11 cells distributed within the same volume. “In both micro-scale approaches, the cartilage cells experienced amplified deformations compared to those at the macro-scale, predicted by simulating the compression of tissues in the knee joint under the weight of the body,” Erdemir found. “In the 11-cell case, all cells experienced less deformation than the single cell case, and also exhibited a larger variance in deformation compared to other cells residing in the same block.”

An article authored by Erdemir and Sibole, , was recently published in PLoS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online journal. Grant funding from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institutes of Health supported the study.

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