Spine and spinal cord injury, imaging of spine and disc biomechanics

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Summary

Current projects include:

3D dynamic imaging of spine and disc biomechanics 
This project develops non-invasive, dynamic imaging techniques to track vertebral and disc motion in 3D in vivo.

Spine and spinal cord injury in children and the elderly
This project aims to understand the unique risks and mechanisms of spinal injury in children or the elderly and how this can be prevented or reduced in these vulnerable populations.

Thoracic strength and injury biomechanics
This project aims to improve our knowledge of thoracic biomechanics and injury tolerance in the elderly.

Supervisor(s)

Dr Elizabeth Clarke

Research Location

North Shore - Kolling Institute of Medical Research

Program Type

Masters/PHD

Synopsis

3D dynamic imaging of spine and disc biomechanics
Classical biomechanics studies of the spine have either been performed in vitro on cadaver or animal tissue, using 2D or static imaging methods, or have used skin-mounted markers to track bone position. This project uses newly developed dynamic MRI methods to track spinal and disc motion in vivo in 3D. This method will have a range of clinical and experimental applications including evaluation of spinal disorders and spinal implants, research in back pain and studies of human paediatric spinal biomechanics.

Spine and spinal cord injury in children and the elderly
Spinal cord injury is rare and more severe in children compared to adults, and is more common in the elderly than younger adults. The main risk factors and mechanisms of spinal cord injury are also different across these age groups. This project aims to understand the unique risks and mechanisms of injury in children or the elderly and how this can be prevented or reduced in these vulnerable populations. There are options to include mechanical testing of spinal tissues, biomechanics testing of spinal joints, cadaver tissue testing, medical image analysis (CT / MRI), computational modelling, spinal tissue histology and neuropathology in this project, and there is potential for international collaboration.

Thoracic strength and injury biomechanics
Rib fractures are common in elderly occupants of motor vehicle collisions. The stiffness and strength of the thoracic region in the elderly is not well characterised and models used in simulations to study injury reduction and prevention are not well developed for the elderly. This project will characterise the stiffness, flexibility (range of motion) and strength of the cadaver thorax over a range of ages to improve thoracic injury tolerance data for the elderly. There is scope to extend this project to include development and validation of non-invasive biomechanics methods to measure thoracic stiffness, or computational modelling to investigate the effects of changes in vehicle design to reduce or prevent rib fracture in elderly occupants of motor vehicle collisions.

Additional Information

Interested students are asked to apply for all available scholarships, with assistance from the potential supervisor. The Murray Maxwell Biomechanics Lab (MMBL) is part of the Bone and Joint Research Group at the Kolling Institute. Our research combines engineering and biomechanics and we regularly collaborate with surgeons, physiotherapists, medical imaging specialists, medical scientists, tissue engineers and engineering industry. Our general research areas are development of non-invasive biomechanics methods (e.g. MRI, ultrasound), spine and spinal cord biomechanics, and injury mechanisms and prevention. Other topics or smaller volunteer research projects may be considered (e.g. summer projects or Honours projects). The Kolling Institute is an excellent academic environment for students and has an active student group PReSS.

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Keywords

Engineering, Biomechanics, spine, spinal cord, injury, Medical Imaging, MRI, mechanical testing, histology, neuropathology, child, Paediatrics, age, thoracic, motor vehicle, computer modelling, Orthopaedics, kinematics, back pain, spinal implant

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1512