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Research Papers

J Biomech Eng. 2017;139(5):051001-051001-10. doi:10.1115/1.4036145.

Spiral arteries (SAs) lie at the interface between the uterus and placenta, and supply nutrients to the placental surface. Maternal blood circulation is separated from the fetal circulation by structures called villous trees. SAs are transformed in early pregnancy from tightly coiled vessels to large high-capacity channels, which is believed to facilitate an increased maternal blood flow throughout pregnancy with minimal increase in velocity, preventing damage to delicate villous trees. Significant maternal blood flow velocities have been theorized in the space surrounding the villi (the intervillous space, IVS), particularly when SA conversion is inadequate, but have only recently been visualized reliably using pulsed wave Doppler ultrasonography. Here, we present a computational model of blood flow from SA openings, allowing prediction of IVS properties based on jet length. We show that jets of flow observed by ultrasound are likely correlated with increased IVS porosity near the SA mouth and propose that observed mega-jets (flow penetrating more than half the placental thickness) are only possible when SAs open to regions of the placenta with very sparse villous structures. We postulate that IVS tissue density must decrease at the SA mouth through gestation, supporting the hypothesis that blood flow from SAs influences villous tree development.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J Biomech Eng. 2017;139(5):051002-051002-12. doi:10.1115/1.4036146.

In traumatic brain injury (TBI), membranes such as the dura mater, arachnoid mater, and pia mater play a vital role in transmitting motion from the skull to brain tissue. Magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) is an imaging technique developed for noninvasive estimation of soft tissue material parameters. In MRE, dynamic deformation of brain tissue is induced by skull vibrations during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); however, skull motion and its mode of transmission to the brain remain largely uncharacterized. In this study, displacements of points in the skull, reconstructed using data from an array of MRI-safe accelerometers, were compared to displacements of neighboring material points in brain tissue, estimated from MRE measurements. Comparison of the relative amplitudes, directions, and temporal phases of harmonic motion in the skulls and brains of six human subjects shows that the skull–brain interface significantly attenuates and delays transmission of motion from skull to brain. In contrast, in a cylindrical gelatin “phantom,” displacements of the rigid case (reconstructed from accelerometer data) were transmitted to the gelatin inside (estimated from MRE data) with little attenuation or phase lag. This quantitative characterization of the skull–brain interface will be valuable in the parameterization and validation of computer models of TBI.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J Biomech Eng. 2017;139(5):051003-051003-8. doi:10.1115/1.4036260.

A wireless medical capsule for measuring the contact pressure between a mobile capsule and the small intestine lumen was developed. Two pressure sensors were used to measure and differentiate the contact pressure and the small intestine intraluminal pressure. After in vitro tests of the capsule, it was surgically placed and tested in the proximal small intestine of a pig model. The capsule successfully gathered and transmitted the pressure data to a receiver outside the body. The measured pressure signals in the animal test were analyzed in the time and frequency domains, and a mathematic model was presented to describe the different factors influencing the contact pressure. A novel signal processing method was applied to isolate the contraction information from the contact pressure. The result shows that the measured contact pressure was 1.08 ± 0.08 kPa, and the small intestine contraction pressure's amplitude and rate were 0.29 ± 0.046 kPa and 12 min−1. Moreover, the amplitudes and rates of pressure from respiration and heartbeat were also estimated. The successful preliminary evaluation of this capsule implies that it could be used in further systematic investigation of small intestine contact pressure on a mobile capsule-shaped bolus.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

Technical Brief

J Biomech Eng. 2017;139(5):054501-054501-5. doi:10.1115/1.4036148.

Acute mechanical damage and the resulting joint contact abnormalities are central to the initiation and progression of post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA). Study of PTOA is typically performed in vivo with replicate animals using artificially induced injury features. The goal of this work was to measure changes in a joint contact stress in the knee of a large quadruped after creation of a clinically realistic overload injury and a focal cartilage defect. Whole-joint overload was achieved by excising a 5-mm wedge of the anterior medial meniscus. Focal cartilage defects were created using a custom pneumatic impact gun specifically developed and mechanically characterized for this work. To evaluate the effect of these injuries on joint contact mechanics, Tekscan (Tekscan, Inc., South Boston, MA) measurements were obtained pre-operatively, postmeniscectomy, and postimpact (1.2-J) in a nonrandomized group of axially loaded cadaveric sheep knees. Postmeniscectomy, peak contact stress in the medial compartment is increased by 71% (p = 0.03) and contact area is decreased by 35% (p = 0.001); the center of pressure (CoP) shifted toward the cruciate ligaments in both the medial (p = 0.004) and lateral (p = 0.03) compartments. The creation of a cartilage defect did not significantly change any aspect of contact mechanics measured in the meniscectomized knee. This work characterizes the mechanical environment present in a quadrupedal animal knee joint after two methods to reproducibly induce joint injury features that lead to PTOA.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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