News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 12, 2010

Biomechanics lab lets Rose students, surgeons make discoveries

Dale H. Long
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The stresses put on pelvic and knee bones following joint replacement surgery show up as bright colors in biomechanical models on computers in the Orthopedic Biomechanics Laboratory at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, opening exciting new worlds of scientific discovery for biomedical engineering students and several of the nation’s top joint replacement surgeons.

The laboratory is a unique collaboration between the Joint Replacement Surgeons of Indiana Research Foundation, based at the Center for Hip & Knee Surgery in Mooresville, and Rose-Hulman.

The program was established with the help of Dr. Michael Meneghini (Civil Eng., ‘95) to provide undergraduate and graduate engineering students with valuable research opportunities in the field of orthopedics.

So far, the program has exceeded expectations, with nine research manuscripts from the laboratory being accepted since 2005 for publication in peer-reviewed medical and engineering journals, and for the first time, two students were given the opportunity last year to present their work from the laboratory at the Biomedical Engineering Society’s annual meeting.

Last November, research from the lab was presented to over 2,000 orthopedic surgeons and researchers at the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons’ annual meeting.

Also, such state-of-the-art technology as a Medical Imaging and Finite Element Analysis Workstation is allowing students to perform virtual surgery and computational models on patient-specific bone geometries.

The laboratory is located in John T. Myers Center for Technological Research with Industry at Rose-Hulman.

“Our students are playing a significant role in several areas of advanced research, covering areas of hip and knee arthroplasty and computational modeling of these systems,” states Renee Rogge, assistant professor of applied biology and biomedical engineering.

Rogge joins Christine Buckley, associate professor, and Kathleen Toohey, assistant professor, in mentoring students who have studied such topics as “Pelvic Loading Following Total Hip Arthroplasty: A Biomechanical Analysis of Cup Position, Cup Design and Hip Position During Simulated Gait,” “Thermal and Mechanical Optimization of PMMA Bone Cement” and “Finite Element Analysis of a Composite Tibia Model Using a CT-Generated Mesh.”

Adding valuable expertise to these projects have been surgeons from one of Indiana’s well established orthopedic groups: Merrill Ritter and Michael Berend of The Center for Hip and Knee Surgery Physicians at St. Francis Hospital, and Scott Small (Mech. Eng., ‘05), JRSI Research Foundation’s engineering director.

“Having our undergraduate-level students get the opportunity to work with surgeons with such expertise in their fields certainly enhances the educational experience,” Buckley said. “These surgeons are dealing with these issues every day in patient care. This knowledge is invaluable to the learning process.”

Berend, a world-renowned joint replacement surgeon, states: “The unique relationship with Rose-Hulman has allowed a true exchange of information, educational opportunities and scientific thinking between surgeons and students. We have been able to combine our clinical experience with over 23,000 joint replacements with the latest engineering research techniques and experimental models. The combination of these disciplines hopefully helps the students see what can be accomplished in the future. It has been a real privilege to see the engineers discover many new insights into joint replacement performance.”

Last spring, Rogge instructed an orthopedic biomechanics course that allowed 15 junior and senior biomedical engineering students to create 3D models of human femurs using CT scan data, implant a custom femoral component during virtual surgery, and perform a computational stress analysis of the system.

Margaret Kelly, senior biomedical engineering major, has used the lab to design a testing protocol that examines surface strains in the ilium, ischium and pubis based on different orientations of the acetabular cup during total hip replacement. She also was able to view surgeries and work with Berend.

“Because of my experiences with JRSI, I was able to make a smooth transition into my (co-op at Biomet Inc.) and begin contributing to the company immediately,” Kelly stated. “JRSI prepared me for my work at Biomet by giving me real-world cutting edge experience in the field of orthopedic joint replacement.”

Didem Tunc, a senior biomedical engineering major, was among five students involved in an undergraduate research course which developed in-depth projects addressing a variety of topics within orthopedic biomechanics. Other students involved were seniors Leah Howard, Darcie Thomas, Michael Volitich and Sarah Younger.

“It’s exciting to see how the applications of biomechanics and engineering are applied in a process that can help others. There may be small steps that can create big results,” said Tunc. “My work in the lab has shown me that I can do research and contribute to helping others.”

Supporting the integration of technology into the research program have been Rose-Hulman alumni Howard Freers, Niles Noblitt and Greg Gibson, and local trustee Jack Ragle.