Grace O’Connell
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering
UC Berkeley.

“Soft Tissue Biomechanics and Tissue Engineering”

The musculoskeletal system is comprised of large load bearing soft tissues that absorb and distribute the complex loads placed on the joint. The intervertebral disc is comprised of mechanically and structurally unique substructures including the annulus fibrosus and the nucleus pulposus, which function together to support and absorb spinal loads. Disc degeneration occurs as early as the second decade of life and contributes to over $130 billion in medical costs. Disc degeneration causes drastic changes in composition and may lead to altered mechanics; however, the changes in the internal mechanical function of the nucleus and annulus are not well understood. Moreover, injury of the disc, such as herniation of nucleus pulposus material through the annulus fibrosus, causes low back pain and may alter the mechanical function of the disc. Removal of the herniated nucleus pulposus material alleviates low back pain, but may alter the internal mechanical function, which may lead to further degenerative changes. Noninvasive techniques to measure internal mechanical properties will be discussed. Future effective treatment for herniated tissue may include an engineered biological replacement tissue, which may prevent further degeneration and reduce the need for total joint replacement or spinal fusion. One approach to biological repair strategies that will be discussed is to cultivate engineered tissue in vitro, permitting some elaboration of extracellular matrix for improved long-term outcome following in vivo implantation.

When: Nov. 7 4:10 PM

Where: 1005 GBSF