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Orthopaedic Engineering Research Laboratory

Mission Statement: The mission of the Orthopaedic Engineering Research Laboratory (OERL) is to apply basic engineering principles, biomechanical evaluation techniques and new biotechnologies to Orthopedic Surgery for the purpose of improving clinical outcomes. The approach to this mission lies in a combination of 1) experimental mechanics studies involving implantable device evaluation and development with direct clinical applications and 2) basic science research efforts in the areas of tissue engineering and new surgical technologies. In addition, OERL projects often provide educational and research experiences for medical residents and fellows and they also support the varied research interests of the medical faculty participating in the program.

Experimental Research and Development

Many of the experimental mechanics investigations seek to optimize implantable device selection and surgical techniques by the comparison of multiple devices that have been developed for similar clinical applications. In fracture fixation studies, the goal often is to establish appropriate indications for the use of multiple devices based on fracture pattern, bone quality or surgical techniques. Similar types of projects are often performed with regard to the installation and fixation of joint replacement devices in primary or revision surgeries or anchoring devices for soft tissue reconstructions involving tendons, ligaments or joint capsule segments. Data collected is often used to evaluate initial stabilization or long-term fatigue performance and studies may utilize either synthetic or cadaveric specimens and/or live animal models. These studies typically involve the evaluation of stresses, strains, load distributions, micro motion, pressure or bone ingrowth at the fracture site or device / bone interface. The laboratory houses an extensive array of electronic instrumentation and test systems for performing experimental biomechanics studies.

Medical device hardware and software development projects often involve collaborations with researchers and staff from other departments within the Medical Center as well as faculty and students from UNC Charlotte. The Ankle Tone Measurement System (ATMS) project conducted in collaboration with Carolinas Rehabilitation and the Mechanical Engineering & Engineering Science department at UNC Charlotte, involves the development of a robotic system which dynamically measures range of motion, strength and muscle tone of the ankle joint.   The system can be used to assess deficits associated with neuromuscular disease or orthopedic trauma. As a robotic system, it can also be used for ankle rehabilitation or joint retraining in patients following surgery or during pharmacologic interventions.

Another current effort involves the development of medical image analysis software which not only produces 3-dimensional images of complex skeletal fractures but also uses computer algorithms to visually reassemble the fracture fragments into their proper positions and orientations. This collaborative effort with UNC Charlotte’s department of Computer and Electrical Engineering has applications in fracture classification, pre-operative planning, surgical navigation and surgical outcomes assessment.

Basic Science Research

Recent basic science research efforts have involved the development and evaluation of a new type of bioreactor system capable of producing controlled osmotic, gradients through the thickness of engineered-tissue constructs. This work is currently being applied to the growth of patient specific articular cartilage from harvested chondrocytes and in an effort to improve chondrocyte viability and to extend the preservation cycle of tissue-banked osteochondral allografts. The bioreactor development has been a collaborative effort with the General Surgery Department at Carolinas Medical Center and continued development involves students from the Mechanical Engineering & Engineering Science department at UNC Charlotte.

OERL Accomplishments

While at Carolinas Medical Center, Dr. Richard Peindl has been awarded four patents, with one involving a muscle-strength testing device and two related to coated culture plates for testing cellular response to a variety of thin films of implantable materials with various surface finishes. The fourth patent involves the controlled osmotic environment bioreactor system which was developed to enhance the cell growth and metabolism in engineered-tissue constructs.

Laboratory Members

Richard D. Peindl, PhD, Director
Nahir Habet, MSc, Research Engineer II
Stephen Daugherty, Research Machinist
Sandy Wilkinson, Coordinating Assistant

Contact Information: Richard D. Peindl, PhD 

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