Artist's rendering of the complex hierarchical structures in the rabbit distal femur growth plate. (© Trevelle L Bibbs)
Biomechanics is the field of study of mechanics of biological systems and living organisms. At the University of Rochester, biomechanics research is conducted on multiple levels, from nano-scale molecular interactions between proteins, micro-scale cellular interactions with their extracellular environment, macro-scale mechanics of tissue and systems including joints, circulatory systems among others, all the way up to whole body (organism) dynamics. Whether studying cellular interactions with their surroundings, or the mechanics of walking, our research is also extremely interdisciplinary, integrating concepts and techniques from a wide range of related fields. For example, our researchers collaborate with molecular biologists or experts in biomedical optics to better understand the responses of cells to their surroundings or mechanical environments. Such research is critical in tissue engineering or the design of cellular interfaces with artificial blood vessels. Similarly, our orthopaedic biomechanics research often involves the use of advanced medical imaging techniques such as MR or microCT to characterize the mechanical properties of bone and cartilage in healthy or diseased joints.
At both the cellular and macroscopic levels, our research also often involves an integration of experimental and computational methods. For example, students may have an opportunity to create an analytical model of cell migration coupled with the ability to validate their predictions using sophisticated optical imaging techniques. Similar computational models study the flow of cells within the microvasculature, the function of the meniscus in the knee or the integrity of a healing fracture callus, providing an efficient method to expand the findings of related experimental studies.
At the University of Rochester, our biomechanics research does not stop in the laboratory. Instead, many efforts are underway to translate our findings directly into the clinical setting. For example, recent funding from the National Institutes of Health provides support for a Center of Research Translation in Orthopaedics, with an emphasis on musculoskeletal trauma, including fracture healing and meniscal injuries. The supported studies include clinical studies of drug treatments and diagnostic imaging techniques as well as basic science research.
URMC has a distinguished history of musculoskeletal research led by experienced physicians and biomedical scientists. The creation of the Center for Musculoskeletal Research in 2000 formalized a 25-year history of multidisciplinary, comprehensive research for bettering musculoskeletal health for the patients of today and tomorrow.
We have established the Center for Navigation and Communication Sciences, supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), that is specifically dedicated to research on the sensory, motor, and integrative mechanisms underlying these essential functions.