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Toward Virtual Cartilage: An Analysis Framework for Health and Disease
David M. Pierce, University of Connecticut, Storrs
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a debilitating disease that afflicts nearly 20% of people in the US, costing more than $185.5 billion a year (in 2007 dollars), and its prevalence is projected to increase by about 40% in the next 25 years. We understand neither the cause nor progression of the disease, and treatment remains primarily symptomatic, as no cure yet exists. Furthermore, despite an enormous body of literature on cartilage mechanics, a great need remains to understand the in vivo mechanobiology of human cartilage, particularly regarding how mechanical stimuli influence chondrocyte (cell) function and regulate matrix synthesis. We discuss experimental and computational advances toward the development of a multidisciplinary analysis framework for cartilage—a virtual cartilage—combining medical imaging, image analysis, experimental and computational mechanics. Patient-specific computational analysis of virtual human joints and cartilage enables a unique opportunity to couple the in vivo solid and fluid biomechanics of cartilage at the joint and tissue levels with cell-mediated changes in cartilage structure, properties, and geometry. In the future, evolving virtual cartilage will help clarify relationships between the biology and physics of cartilage function in health and disease. Virtual cartilage could also advance understanding of patient-specific pathological changes due to biomechanical factors, improve clinical diagnostics and therapies, and enable new methods for non-invasive diagnosis and pre-/post-operative decision making.
Dr. Pierce received the B.S. degree from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees (with S.D. Sheppard) from Stanford University, CA, all in mechanical engineering. Additionally, he received a Ph.D.-Minor degree in mathematics from Stanford University and completed his Habilitation (Venia Legendi) in experimental and computational biomechanics (with G.A. Holzapfel) at the Graz University of Technology, Austria. With the Interdisciplinary Mechanics Laboratory at UConn he studies the theory, development and application of pragmatic computational methods for physical problems of practical importance using computational and experimental solid (bio)mechanics, finite element methods, applied mathematics, and corollary programming/software. Applications include the mechanics of cartilage in health and disease, the mechanics of arteries, and, in collaboration with A.M. Fitzgerald & Associates, fracture prediction methodologies for microelectromechanical systems. His recent work proposes several new 3-D, image-based (e.g. ultra-high field diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging and multiphoton microscopy) constitutive models for articular cartilage, facilitating FE simulation of sample/patient-specific cartilage deformation, fiber network response and fluid permeation.