C Murray Maxwell Biomechanics Laboratory

Within: Institute of Bone and Joint Research, Kolling Institute of Medical Research

Head of laboratory

On this page:

Overview of research program

The C. Murray Maxwell Biomechanics Laboratory integrates the biochemical and molecular changes in tissues with their effects on the mechanical properties that are so vital to their normal function. In addition, biomechanical and image-based evaluation of joints, tissues and implants are used to evaluate and potentially modify clinical and surgical practice. The following major projects are ongoing with the majority funded by external granting bodies:

  • The biomechanics of developing and ageing spine
  • The effects of growth and ageing on tissue and joint biomechanical properties
  • Development of novel, non-invasive musculoskeletal imaging methods
  • Biomechanical changes in tendon degeneration
  • Mechanisms of paediatric spinal cord injury
  • Effects of orthopaedic implant design on bone strain and fracture risk
  • Scaffold optimisation for Tissue Engineering

Major funding sources

  • Australian Research Council
  • National Health and Medical Research Council
  • Industry

Selected publications

Book chapters

Clarke E. Spinal cord mechanical properties. In: Neural Tissue Biomechanics. Springer Verlag (In Press 8/3/10).

Bilston LE, Clarke E, Cheng S. Brain tissue mechanical properties – making sense of 5 decades of test data. In: The Pathomechanics of Tissue Injury and Disease, and the Mechanophysiology of Healing. Research Signpost, Kerala, India, (2009).

Refereed journal articles

Clarke EC, Martin JH, Herbert R. Assumption of a 'gravity only region' for gravity correction of passive joint moment data may be problematic. Journal of Biomechanics, 43(13):2653-5 (2010).

Bilston L, Clarke E, Brown J. Spinal injury in car crashes: Crash factors and the effects of occupant age, Injury Prevention (In press 8/11/2010).

Boughton PC, Merhebi J, Kim C, Roger G, Diwan A, Clarke E, Amanat A, Ho R, Ruys A. An Interlocking Ligamentous Spinal Disk Arthroplasty with Neural Network Infrastructure, Journal of Biomimetics, Biomaterials, and Tissue Engineering, 7:55-79 (2010).

Clarke E, Cheng S, Bilston LE. The mechanical properties of neonatal rat spinal cord in vitro, and comparisons with adult. Journal of Biomechanics, 42(10):1397-1402 (2009).

Cheng S, Clarke E, Bilston LE. The effects of preconditioning strain on measured tissue properties. Journal of Biomechanics, 42(9): 1360-1362 (2009).

Clarke EC, Bilston LE. Contrasting biomechanics and neuropathology of spinal cord injury in neonatal and adult rats following vertebral dislocation. Journal of Neurotrauma, 25(7):817-32 (2008).

Clarke EC, Choo AM, Liu J, Lam C, Bilston LE, Tetzlaff W, Oxland TR. Anterior fracture-dislocation is more severe than lateral: a biomechanical and neuropathological comparison in rat thoracolumbar spine. Journal of Neurotrauma, 25(4):371-83 (2008).

Clarke E, Cheng S, Bilston LE. Rheological properties of the tissues of the central nervous system: a review. Medical Engineering and Physics, 30(10):1318-37(2008).

Clarke EC, Appleyard R, Bilston LE. Immature sheep spines are more flexible than mature spines: an in vitro biomechanical study. Spine, 32(26):2970-9 (2007).

Clarke EC, McNulty PA, Macefield VG, Bilston LE. Mechanically evoked sensory and motor responses to dynamic compression of the ulnar nerve. Muscle and Nerve, 35(3):303-11 (2007).

Smith MM, Sakurai G, Smith SM, Young AA, Melrose J, Stewart CM, Appleyard RC, Peterson JL, Gillies RM, Dart AJ, Sonnabend DH, Little CB. Modulation of aggrecan and ADAMTS expression in ovine tendinopathy induced byaltered strain. Arthritis Rheum. 2008 Apr;58(4):1055-66.

Melrose J, Smith SM, Appleyard RC, Little CB. Aggrecan, versican and type VI collagen are components of annular translamellar crossbridges in the intervertebral disc. Eur Spine J. 2008 Feb;17(2):314-24.

Sein ML, Appleyard RC, Walton JR, Bradley T, Murrell GA. Reliability of a new shoulder laxometer to assess inferior glenohumeral joint translation. Br J Sports Med. 2008 Mar;42(3):178-82.

Young AA, Appleyard RC, Smith MM, Melrose J, Little CB. Dynamic biomechanics correlate with histopathology in human tibial cartilage: a preliminary study. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2007 Sep;462:212-20.

Major collaborations

Close collaborations have been formed both within the hospital campus, University of Sydney and with industry:

Raymond Purves Bone and Joint Research Laboratories

Dr Ben Gooden, an orthopaedic surgeon, has taken two years leave from his clinical training to undertake a PhD. In collaboration with Raymond Purves Bone and Joint Research Laboratories his project investigates the effects of in-vivo and in-vitro loading on the biochemical and biomechanical properties of mouse tendon. The MMBL has been instrumental in developing an in-vitro tendon loading system and in measuring of the material properties of mouse tendons. (Associate investigator: Prof Chris Little).

Recently an in-vivo model of sheep spinal degeneration has been initiated. Animals underwent a surgical incision to their intervertebral disk to replicate an annular tear. The effect of this injury on spinal biomechanics, histology and biochemistry will be determined at 6 months post surgery (Associate investigators: Prof Chris Little, Dr James Melrose).

Orthopaedics Dept, RNSH and the Sydney Orthopaedic Research Institute:

Dr David Parker and Dr Myles Coolican are currently investigating "The effect of external fixation on the strain in the anterior cruciate ligament" in collaboration with the MMBL. Six donated cadaveric limbs have been evaluated, with and without instrumentation, to determine if external fixation can protect the soft tissue structures of the knee post multi-ligament soft tissue surgery. This study has been submitted for presentation at the ISAKOS annual meeting.

Sydney Clinical Skills and Simulation Centre (SCSSC)

A number of cadaver workshops have been conducted over the past financial year in collaboration with the Sydney Clinical Skills and Simulation Centre (SCSSC). These workshops allow medical registrars and consultants to hone their surgical skills on cadaveric limbs. Specific workshops include shoulder and knee arthroscopy, total hip and knee arthroplasty surgery and trauma. The MMBL, SCSSC and the RNSH Radiology Department are currently working on an educational DVD to assist in the education of radiologists and medical students. This DVD will include, MRI, CT, arthroscopy and dissection of major joints of the human body (Associate Investigator: A/Prof Bruno Giuffre).


A close working relationship has also been formed with the Medical Device Research Pty Ltd. This industrial arm provides access to computation modelling including Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and Computation Fluid Mechanics (CFM). Current biomechanical research projects undertaken in collaboration with WorleyParsons include:

  • design of a femoral head resurfacing prosthesis
  • accelerated corrosion analysis of a total hip replacement
  • friction properties between bone and various implant surface coating
  • instrumented hammer for assessing strike force during total hip implantation
  • measurement of femoral bone cortical strain around a total hip stem
  • finite element analysis (FEA) of bone fracture around a total hip stem