Research Themes

Musculoskeletal Dynamics

Key academics include:

Anthony Bull, Andrew Amis, Angela Kedgley

Overview:

Msk Dynamics Because of the importance of biomechanics on joint function, we must quantify loadings on mechanically active joint tissues, e.g. cartilage. This can be accomplished using a hierarchical approach based on patient-specific data at all levels (kinematics, body segment parameters, tissue properties, muscle activations and articular and muscular geometry). Such quantification is used to provide design data for implants for biological and artificial replacement tissues. It can also be used to evaluate the effects of surgery by studying joint mechanics pre‐ and post-intervention, thus allowing rehabilitation and prevention strategies to be developed to modify localised joint tissue mechanics in rational ways.  The aim of our research in this area is to use numerical and experimental methods to quantify localised tissue loading in the joints of patients.  Our work has led to the construction of computer models, such as the Imperial College Lower Limb Model. 

Implant Design and Testing

Key academics include:

Andrew Amis, Jonathan Jeffers, Justin Cobb

Overview:

Impland Design Medical advances in the last few years and an ageing population mean that more people than ever rely on artificial joints. From hip replacements to reconstruction of knee ligaments and cartilage repair, this kind medical engineering is increasingly common.  Improved understanding of biomechanics and the behaviour of human joints allows us to innovate in the design and development of joint replacement prostheses. A number of such devices have been designed and introduced to clinical use in treatment of osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders. Allied to this has been extensive work on ligaments, tendons and menisci, both studies of their behaviour in stabilising joints and then development and testing of novel methods of soft tissue reconstruction. These areas of work are undertaken via several approaches: physical testing of joints, both as isolated cadaveric specimens and also in patients at the hospital, and creation of computer models of joints from medical images, and of specific factors such as implant-bone interfaces and fixation. The mechatronics work has led to development of an ‘active constraint’ robotic surgery system which is in clinical use for joint arthroplasty, and also to a haptic feedback arthroscopy simulator for training surgeons. Current work includes development of a robotic system for testing human joint function and of a novel flexible probe for minimally-invasive access along curvilinear pathways between body structures.

Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine

Key academics include:

Molly Stevens, Anthony Bull, Jonathan Jeffers

Overview:

Tissue Engineering There is clear scope for biomaterials and tissue engineering as a future treatment for osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders.  The aim of our research in this area is to engineer minimally-invasively implantable nanostructured material scaffolds and cells for regeneration of damaged tissues.  Advanced biomaterials can provide physical support for engineered tissues as well as powerful topographical and chemical cues to guide cells seeded in the tissue. Nanostructured polymer and peptide scaffolds and injectable gels can support cartilage regeneration, while composite materials can support osteochondral regeneration. Our research in this field has led to the development of tissue-engineered constructs and their translation to in vivo testing.  We are further investigating the integration of biomaterials cell therapies.

Our research under the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine theme formed the foundations of the recently announced RESOLVE initiative.  

Surgical Technology

Key academics include:

Justin Cobb, Guang-Zhong Yang, Ferdinando Rodriguez Y Baena

Overview:

Surgical Technology Human joints wear out. Over 100,000 people have replacement hips and knees in England and Wales each year at a cost of over £1bn. Joint replacement surgery requires a high level of precision but is routinely performed without any quality control and a significant group of patients have less than satisfactory results.  Imperial researchers at the MSk MEC are seeking to deliver improved surgical technologies to enhance outcomes for patients.  Our work in this field has previously led to a robotic surgery system that was used clinically.  Among a wide range of current projects we are developing industrial quality control using robotic devices to assist the surgeon in delivering a high level of surgical precision with minimum numbers of instruments. When supported by 3D modelling based on low-dose CT anatomic scans, this technology reduces both the intraoperative risks and theatre inventory costs.  We work with a number of companies collaborating on new devices, assisting with product development and also post-operative clinical surveillance of new implants that are being used in patients.  Our research is helping shape research and outcomes in hip replacement and resurfacing using the most cost-effective bearings for each individual, knee replacement (including partial knee replacements such as patello-femoral knee and unicondylar knee replacements) and technologies to improve surgical performance, including robotics, navigation, and patient matched instrumentation.

Rehabilitation, Sports and Human Performance

Key academics include:

Alison McGregor, Anthony Bull, Paul Strutton, Pantelis Georgiou, Ravi Vaidyanathan

Overview:

Rehabilitation Our research in this field is seeking to exploit technology to develop rehabilitative and preventative treatments for osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders.  Conservative interventions for osteoarthritis are traditionally managed by therapists usually physiotherapists in NHS departments. Treatment is often group based and focused on exercises and activities to increase the strength and function of key lower limb muscles usually the quadriceps. Targeted patient-specific treatments are rare, with limited consideration of the impact of joint mechanics, hypermobility, and muscle motor control and functioning. This in part relates to a limited idea of what normal function is and how people compensate for injury and poor mechanics in the musculoskeletal system. This is impacted further by poor compliance and attendance at classes, and particularly long term maintenance of exercises due to lifestyle and work related issues, motivation and often a lack of feedback to either encourage or let the patient know they are doing their exercises correctly.

Our research in this theme seeks to improved current practice by expanding our knowledge of joint mechanics and motor control and their response to injury and disease, and relate this to everyday functional tasks through detailed assessment and remote measurement of function using wireless sensing. Through this we hope to develop and evolve novel interventions and approaches to rehabilitation.  By investigating the complex interactions of the skeletal, muscular and nervous systems arising from our related research in sports and human performance, we will ultimately improve understanding of the musculoskeletal system in health and disease and develop improved rehabilitative and preventative treatments. We are currently looking into different aspects of human function at several performance levels; investigating from the perspective of the mechanics of movement, the role of muscular strength and movement control by the central nervous system.

 Our work under the Rehabilitation, Sports and Human Performance theme is linked closely to Imperial’s Sports Innovation Challenge.