Mechanical charactrization of spinal cord tissue

To accomplish our mission to develop the technologies to implement patient specific approaches to prevent, diagnose and treat spinal cord injury we need to quantify spinal cord biomechanical behavior. Research has shown that mechanics of traumatic impact are the primary predictor of long term functional deficit in patients with spinal cord injury.

Our objectives are (1) to characterize the material behaviour of the spinal cord, its constituent materials and the surrounding protective structures to develop constitutive relationships based on non-invasive diagnostic measurements. These constitutive relationships provide critical input to establish accurate computational models of spinal cord. (2) to develop computational models of the spinal cord complex to better understand the mechanics of injury and identify opportunities for intervention. These models provide an additional tool to expand our knowledge from animal studies of spinal cord injury. (3) to experimentally determine the biomechanical behavior of the spinal cord and its constituents. 

Electrophysiological modeling of spinal cord neurons after mechanical injury 

Spinal cord is the main communication pathway between the human brain and different parts of body. Every year, there are many people around the world that face spinal cord (SCI) injury because of accidents or other diseases. However, the effect and symptoms of SCI can vary widely based on the severity and level of injury. Understating the relationship between injury and its functional outcomes is necessary for better diagnosis and post-injury patient treatment. The conventional method of doing research for this purpose, is to perform animal studies and link animals’ behavior to the type and level of injury. However, performing animal studies is very costly and ethically challenging. Also, It’s not always possible to control experimental conditions and measure desired parameters. So, there is an emerging need for developing computational models of spinal cord that let us study different hypotheses and repeat the experiments many times.

In Neurospine lab, we are developing detailed computational models of neurons based on their anatomical and electrophysiological properties. The overall goal of our research is to make models that not only mimic electrochemical behavior of neurons in the normal condition, but also, imitate their behavior in the presence of mechanical injury.

Optimization of cooling rate for inducing therapeutic hypothermia on post-cardiac arrest patients

Optimizing the cooling rate for inducing therapeutic hypothermia on post-cardiac arrest and spinal cord injured patients has the potential to improve the effectiveness of therapeutic hypothermia and reduce associated complications. As pre-hospital hypothermia gains acceptance in the field, developing methods for rapid reduction of core temperature will become increasingly important. Preliminary work includes testing and validating a computational approach to model heat loss from the upper leg subjected to intensive cooling to better understand the relationships between human physiology and heat transfer characteristics. In partnership with the LAEC group at SFU this research is aimed at developing a prototype for an innovative portable cooling device for inducing hypothermia while a patient is in the ambulance.

Injury Prevention, Biomaterial Testing, Medical Technologies

The Neurospine Biomechanics Laboratory focuses on health related innovation and product development to assist the productivity of small businesses and improve the quality of care in Canada through providing engineering and clinical support in a timely, professional and affordable manner.  We successfully collaborated with three Canadian owned companies in the past twelve months: (1) we assisted Eastmed Inc., a Nova Scotia based manufacturing medical company dedicated specifically to women’s health, to refine their gas assist injection molding process that is used for manufacturing off-the-shelf pessaries for the Stress Urinary Incontinence problem.  We used our state-of-the-art BOSE ElectroForce mechanical test system to characterize the mechanical behaviour of a range of pessaries and determined the effect of manufacturing protocols on device performance. (2) we advanced the fall protection services of JADE Engineers Inc., an Ontario based engineering firm, by evaluating the effect of harness, personal protective lanyards, user’s stature, and fall conditions on spine loading and injury risk using computer simulations in MADYMO, state-of-the-art Instron ElectroPulse mechanical test system and Qualisys motion capture system. (3) we collaborate with MobiSafe Systems Inc., a British Columbia based start-up, to quantify the dynamical characteristics of power wheelchairs and its effect on the fall characteristics and injuries to the occupants through physical crash testing and MADYMO computer simulations.

Mechanics of vehicle-pedestrian interaction in a collision

According to Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administration, about 9000 pedestrians were killed and hundreds of thousands were injured in Canada from 1989 to 2009. However, injuries or fatalities caused by these accidents can be prevented or minimized by understanding the mechanics of vehicle and pedestrian during impact.  At Neurospine lab we are focusing on reconstruction of vehicle- pedestrian collisions to determine the optimal collision conditions that would lead to minimum human injury. We are utilizing series of computational dynamic models that simulate pedestrian- vehicle collisions to find the effects of speed, braking and car design on pedestrian throw which allows us to determine the most effective injury prevention strategies.

Development of an Instrumented surrogate spinal cord

Our aim is to develop a simple, low cost surrogate model of the human spinal cord with a biofidelic dura mater membrane. We are using materials that closely resemble the actual spinal cord material. With our state-of-the art instruments, we perform various mechanical tests on the models to replicate spinal cord injuries (SCIs). Effectively scaling injury models from small to large animals and translating the results to human scale is critical for accurate interpretation of the research findings. We have recently developed surrogate models of rat, primate and human cervical spinal cords in the lab. The objective of this project is to run a series of experiments to characterize the effect of scale on the mechanics of the injury process. Following the initial series of experiments the surrogate system will be redesigned and optimized for use in studying various parameters of the spinal cord injury process.

Dynamics of Electric Powered Wheelchair (EPW) Falls

In collaboration with MobiSafe Systems Inc., the NeuroSpine Biomechanics Lab is currently engaged in understanding the dynamics of Electric Powered Wheelchair (EPW) tips/falls and the effect on passenger injury.  Concerns being investigated include the effects of passenger restraints on HIC measurements and head impact location during a complete EPW tip. Qualysis Motion Capture software was used to help understand the fall behavior of both a passenger and their wheelchair with IR tags; the resulting information was used to assist in constructing a computer model.   Currently, NBL has an accurate EPW/passenger MADYMO model and is using it to answer our concerns regarding EPW tips.    The model allows for easy parameter change, and post processing simulation. Understanding these scenarios is instrumental in helping companies, such as MobiSafe, improve public health and safety.