Biomechanics of musculoskeletal systems
Bone is a living tissue as well as a structural material, and as such it is susceptible to the effects of age, disease, and injury. Thus, it is important to study the range of factors that can affect the mechanical competence of the skeletal system. By employing micromechanical, imaging, modeling, and non-destructive techniques, the biological and mechanical factors that affect skeletal integrity can be investigated. A better understanding of the mechanisms that provide bone with its mechanical competence can be largely utilized in the development of more accurate diagnostic techniques and treatment modalities for diseases associated with skeletal fragility and in the design of orthopaedic implants and biomimetic materials.
In addition to isolated tissue studies, the interaction of structures within the musculoskeletal system (muscles, bones, joints, etc.) can lend substantial insight into the physiology and biomechanics of this complex system. High speed radiographic techniques can be used to investigate the the motion and interaction of bony and soft tissue structures in order to obtain this information for the in vivo environment.
With an estimated mortality rate of 20 percent, the 250,000 hip fractures which occur each year are one of the leading causes of fatal injuries in the U.S. Vertebral fractures have a less traumatic effect on the half million individuals they affect annually, but they can lead to chronic pain and disability. The diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis have improved dramatically over the past few years. Bone loss occurs in all individuals with age; however, the factors which most increase the risk of fragility fractures are still being investigated. New technologies in imaging and ultrasonic assessment of hard tissues may increase our understanding of how age alters the geometric and mechanical properties of bones and leads to increased fracture risk. This data can be used for better modeling of bone biomechanics and may lead to more targeted diagnostic and therapeutic techniques.