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NEWS
Virginia Tech Team to Study Knee Ligament Sprains
October 8, 2009


Prof. Raffaella De Vita leads a team studying the structural components of ligaments in knee sprains.

A team of Virginia Tech engineering researchers has won a $300,000 National Science Foundation grant to study knee ligament sprains at the micro-mechanical level.

Principal investigator Raffaella De Vita, an assistant professor in the Engineering Science and Mechanics Department and director of the Mechanics of Soft Biological Systems Laboratory, will examine the role of the structural components of knee ligaments in sprains by combining micro-mechanical models, molecular models, biological and mechanical experiments.

The study will focus on the most common orthopedic injuries, such as those caused by when the knee is forced beyond its normal motion range, such as in a fall, or when the knee is impacted during a vehicular accident or participation in sports such as football.

The study will involve rat specimens of similar age and sex type, but split into two groups — one fed a diet of sweet peas and the other a lethargic diet. Diet affects the crosslinks in collagen, which is a primary component of ligaments. Harvested ligaments will be subjected to lab stress tests and their deformation observed by using a special high-speed camera.

Once completed, the research findings could lead to the creation of replacement grafts and biological scaffolds for damaged ligaments. The results also will guide the design of braces or stretching routines to help prevent damage during stressful activities that otherwise would lead to ligament sprains.


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