Research

At the Tissue Biomechanics Lab, our overarching goal is to characterize the relationship between musculoskeletal tissue structure and function in order to understand the mechanisms underlying their healthy development and how this changes with injury and disease. See the home page to learn more about our lab mission! At the TBL, we study tissues including bone, ligament, and cartilage, using experimental and computational techniques. We collaborate with clinical and industry-based professionals to develop research with a meaningful impact on society. Check out our current projects listed below and see our publications page to learn more about previous work!

Bone
We study the mechanics of bone during postnatal development and aging, and how disease affects structure-mechanical function relationships in bone. This work often incorporates loading on the bone from muscles in order to understand the response of bone to different activities.

Microstructure, Cell Activity, and Strength of Cortical Bone
Femoral neck fractures constitute a large proportion of all hip fractures and lead to high disability and mortality rates. The social and economic costs associated with these fractures are expected to increase rapidly due to the world's aging population. Most fractures are attributed to the onset and accumulation of damage in cortical bone, which is the dense outer layer of bone. Our aim is to understand how spatio-temporal changes in the structure of cortical bone (see image) lead to bone fragility. We relate cortical bone structure to strength using a combination of ex-vivo, x-ray computed tomography (CT) imaging, mechanical testing, and finite element (FE) modelling.

Contributors: Mike Rogalski, Liz Livingston, Lydia Bakalova
Collaborators: Professor Thomas Andersen (University of Southern Denmark, Cell Biology)
Funding: Velux Foundation, UIUC MechSE Department, Burroughs Wellcome Fund
Bone Properties During Growth and Fracture Prevention in Racehorses
Most fatal musculoskeletal injuries in racing horses result from bone fracture. Specifically, these musculoskeletal injuries most often occur in the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint. The objective of this study is to characterize how equine bones in the lower limb adapt to changing loads during growth and exercise. We use longitudinal computed tomography (CT) scans and motion capture to accomplish this. Using the CT scans, we build finite element models to measure bone strength in high-risk regions.

Contributors: Sara Moshage, Kellie Halloran
Collaborators: Professor Annette McCoy (UIUC, Veterinary Medicine), Professor John Polk (UIUC, Anthropology)
Funding: UIUC VetMed Companion Animal Research Foundation, UIUC VetMed Hatch Grant, Morris Animal Foundation, Campus Research Board, Grayson Jockey Club
Exercise and Bone Remodeling
Exercise interventions may provide a feasible means for improving the strength of regions that are at high risk for fracture, however bone adaptation is sensitive to the mechanical loading from different exercises and postures. It remains unclear how exercise affects bone and whether it is at all beneficial to bone strength. We use ovine bone to investigate whether the mechanical properties of bone after a sixty-day exercise trial are significantly different from non-exercised controls. Specifically, we computed tomography (CT) scan bone samples, and afterwards we mechanically test the samples in compression.

Contributors: Sony Manandhar, Sara Moshage, Hyunggwi Song
Collaborators: Professor John Polk (UIUC, Anthropology)
Funding: National Science Foundation
Effects of Fatigue and Stress Fracture Prevention in Athletes
Bone serves a mechanical role to protect and support the musculoskeletal system over a lifetime of loading. However, repeated loading increases the risk of stress fracture, particularly among basketball players and military personnel. We study the tibia, one of the bones most prone to stress fractures, during basketball activities. Our objective is to develop preventive and management strategies to minimize fracture risk. We use motion capture, computed tomography (CT), and finite element (FE) modelling in this study.

Contributors: Chenxi Yan
Collaborators: Professor Stuart Warden (IUPUI, Physical Therapy)
Funding: National Basketball Association, GE
Passive Tissues
We study the ligaments and joint capsules within articulating joints in healthy individuals as well as those who experience damage due to injury. Our aim is to understand the underlying microstructural determinants of mechanical strength.
Structure and Function in Knee Ligaments
Knee ligaments connect the femur to the tibia, thereby stabilizing the knee joint and transmitting loads through our lower limbs. Developing in-vivo methods to quantify the structure and mechanics of knee ligaments in a clinical setting will improve the treatment of many orthopedic injuries. While magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is widely used to diagnose and evaluate knee ligament injuries, it is not used to assess the complex multi-scale mechanics of knee ligaments. Therefore, we are developing novel methods for quantifying ligament structure using MRI.

Contributors: Roberto Pineda Guzman
Collaborators: Biomedical Imaging Center
Knee Simulator for Medical Education
Knee pain is the most frequently reported joint pain, yet diagnosis of knee ligament injury is a difficult task for physicians to learn. Creating a physical knee simulator with biomechanically realistic passive components such as ligaments could provide consistent training for medical students and lead to improved care for knee injury patients. In this study, we use synthetic fibers and a virtual education window to simulate knee function and train the next generation of doctors.

Contributors: Roberto Pineda Guzman, Sara Moshage, Sam Goldsmith
Collaborators: Jump Simulation Center
Funding: Jump-Arches
Reducing Cardiovascular Disease and Shoulder Pain in Wheelchair Users
Wheelchair users are at high risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). High intensity interval training (HIIT) can decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, but it increases the risk for shoulder injuries. This is alarming because 3 out of every 4 wheelchair users already report upper body pain. We pose the question: what exercise regimens could reduce the risk of CVD without increasing the risk of shoulder injury in wheelchair users? We acquire motion capture, EMG, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data in wheelchair users performing high and moderate intensity exercises to quantify risk and determine the safest modes of exercise for wheelchair users.

Contributors: Kellie Halloran, Michael Focht
Collaborators: Dr. Ian Rice (UIUC, Kinesiology), Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES)
Funding: National Science Foundation, UIUC MechSE Department, American Society of Biomechanics