A significant component of the research program of the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Laboratory (MBL) focuses on articular cartilage, which is the bearing material lining the articulating surfaces of bones in joints, such as the knee, hip, and shoulder. Osteoarthritis, which is a common and crippling disease in these joints, develops as a result of the mechanical wear and tear of this tissue. Unlike fractured bone, cartilage has a very limited ability to repair itself, consequently cartilage injuries and osteoarthritic degeneration currently have no cure. Understanding the mechanisms by which articular cartilage can support the loads transmitted across the joints is a fundamental step toward understanding cartilage degenerative disease, and developing treatment modalities which may delay disease progression or lead to biological or synthetic substitutes. Consequently, our research has addressed a range of topics in cartilage tissue mechanics, contact mechanics, lubrication, tissue engineering, and solute transport. We are also also addressing the mechanics of cartilage cells, known as chondrocytes, to better understand the environment in which they reside and the mechano-electrochemical signals that they perceive.
The MBL's fundamental philosophy is that major scientific breakthroughs can be achieved in biomedical engineering by judiciously combining theoretical analyses with experimental studies. Despite the tremendous progress made in the last few decades, modeling tools for biological tissues remain in their infancy, and significant opportunities exist to produce major advances in modeling, that can rise to the challenge of describing complex biological behaviors. Therefore, our laboratory has placed an additional focus on modeling tissues using the framework of mixture theory. This framework makes it possible to incorporate chemical reactions within analyses of solid and fluid mechanics, thereby facilitating the modeling of fundamental processes such as biological growth, and the activity of molecular motors.
We believe that these sophisticated modeling tools need to be shared freely with the biomechanics community, the scientific community at large, and the general public. Such tools can disseminate the latest developments in biomechanical modeling and provide a common platform for testing hypotheses and comparing various ideas.
An overview of select research topics at the MBL may be found on the left.