This was an invitation we couldn't pass up.
Dr. Keith Markolf and Dr. Dan Boguszewski from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at UCLA invited us to their laboratory to learn about their studies of knee injury mechanisms. An enormous robot--typically used for spot welding in car manufacturing plants--had been repurposed to grasp the bones connected to a cadaver knee and apply pressures on them, mimicking what would happen during a fall on the basketball court or during a gymnastics performance.
The bright orange robot applied 200 Newtons of force (45 lbs.) to the tibia (one of the shin bones) while shifting the bone forward and backward 250 times to look at how the joint was dislocated as a result of a torn ACL. These studies are helpful, but the doctors want to understand better how the bones are grinding together and pressing down on one another. To do this, they asked CNSI nanoscientists if they knew of coatings that could be applied onto the bones like paint before the mechanical forces were applied. Then, looking at how the paint material wore away or responded to the pressure, the doctors could pinpoint exactly where the pressure and grinding was being applied. This would help inform surgeons about how to improve the success of surgical knee procedures to prevent orthopaedic arthritis and the need for full knee replacements.
The work is still in the early planning stages, but some of the materials being investigated include alginate or hyaluronic coatings, lyposomes embedded with fluorescent dyes, or nanodiamond coatings.