“Before joining BU I was looking for research on bone mechanics, where I could perform both [...]mechanical testing and numerical analyses of biological tissue. I wanted to see how I could apply mechanical engineering concepts in a biological area. [Associate] Professor Elise Morgan’s (ME) lab was the perfect match.
In my research I’m working to improve predictions of vertebral fractures. Spine fractures are very common, especially with an aging population, and 45 percent of fractures can go undiagnosed. Our group has developed a device that incrementally compresses human cadaver spine segments to failure. After each load increment, the spine segments are imaged at high resolution using micro-computed tomography. We then use digital image correlation techniques developed in [Associate]Professor Paul Barbone’s (ME) lab to determine failure patterns and regions where failure is likely to occur.
At the medical campus, we obtain clinical three-dimensional images of the spine segments. We estimate the bone mineral density and fracture risk of our samples using the current clinical evaluation standards. In addition, the clinical images provided are used to generate three-dimensional, patient-specific models to simulate and predict vertebral fractures. To validate our simulation results, we compare them with the deformation patterns from our mechanical testing.
Knowing the clinical fracture risk and results from simulations of our samples, we hope to show that 3-D simulations of spine fractures may provide better predictions of spine fracture risk. This type of injury can lead to further fractures that are not limited to the spine. Early discovery can improve patients’ quality of life and potentially reduce medical costs.
The only way to conduct this research is through collaboration. Our lab – which uses mechanical devices, tissue-testing equipment and micro-CT scanners – works with the medical campus and medical staff. Without the interaction between the College of Engineering and the School of Medicine, it would be difficult to conduct this type of research.”
- Amira Hussein, as told to Jason L. London