LeTourneau study seeks knee injury options - University receives federal grant to examine ACL tears

A LeTourneau University professor and his students hope a robot and cadaver will reveal how people should compensate for knee injuries as they walk, run or jump.   People who tear an anterior cruciate ligament but opt not to have surgery put increased strain on the bone, muscles and other ligaments in the knee, said Dr. Roger Gonzalez, a biomedical and mechanical engineering professor. His federally funded study will measure that strain and find the best way to reduce it while increasing knee stability, he said.


The project is financed by about $525,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes for Health.
"This is for people who want to become active again," Gonzalez said. "I don't think we're going to eliminate (ACL surgery), but I think we're going to reduce it."

The study might also help reduce osteoarthritis in knees without ACLs, he said.
"Is it possible to load the joint in a certain way to not cause long-term damage to the joint?" he asked.

To measure the knee strain, Gonzalez and his team of students will attach sensors to a leg taken from a cadaver. A sophisticated robot will manipulate the cadaver leg to replicate the movements of live subjects, some with torn ACLs and others with healthy knees.

Project manager Matt Wisher, a senior majoring in electrical and computer engineering, said Gonzalez and his students started building the robot a year ago and hope to complete it by the end of the semester. The robot and cadaver tests will verify a computer model students are also developing.

Gonzalez wants to have results by August, in time for the annual American Society of Biomechanics conference at Stanford University in California. The next stage is to verify the experiment results on live human beings, and the third will be to implement the results at rehabilitation clinics.

Gonzalez said previous robot-based knee studies have analyzed the effects of constant pressure on knees with torn ACLs, but his will be the first to study the varying impacts of different types of motions.

Gonzalez also oversees a LeTourneau program that provides prosthetic legs for amputees in developing countries. The project LeTourneau Engineering Global Solutions - or LEGS - started last year when biomedical engineering students and faculty designed a prosthetic leg and traveled to Kenya to help landmine victims.

Several LeTourneau University faculty and students ventured to Bangladesh earlier this year to fit local amputees with prosthetic legs.
The trip was a step in a project aimed at providing efficient, low-cost prosthetics to residents of developing countries.

Von: 27.9.06, www.news-journal.com by Wes FergusonTurkish

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