This article is part of a series on the undergraduate research fellowship program
As part of a two-semester undergraduate research fellowship, junior chemical and biochemical engineering student Rima Baliga is working with mechanical engineering professor Dr. Anne Silverman on creating a rotationplasty model for a project in collaboration with Children’s Hospital Colorado.
“When people think of Mines, they don’t always immediately think of medicine,” Silverman said. “But in our research, we are using engineering tools to advance clinical care.”
Rotationplasty is an uncommon procedure used when a person has a tumor near the knee and needs to have it removed. Rather than amputating the leg from above the knee down, surgeons can remove the tumor and surrounding tissues. They then rotate the remaining portion of the leg 180 degrees and reattach it to the thigh. The rotated ankle joint becomes a new knee joint.
Baliga is developing computational models to analyze the effects of this surgical procedure.
“Modeling this procedure could be used to improve prosthetic design,” Baliga said.
Baliga is currently using the software program OpenSim to build a skeletal model to represent a patient who has undergone rotationplasty. This program allows Baliga to analyze computerized models in extensive detail to gain greater understanding of human motion.
“Musculoskeletal models help us to understand the action of individual muscles,” Silverman said. “In a movement simulation, we can determine when muscles are active and how they coordinate to move the skeleton.
This semester, Baliga will add a prosthetic limb to her model. She will use experimental walking data from Children’s, in combination with the musculoskeletal model, to develop a walking simulation of a patient. Baliga will also compare muscle forces over the gait cycle between a walking simulation of the rotationplasty patient and that of a non-amputee.
Susan Kanai, a physical therapist at the Center for Gait and Movement Analysis at Children’s Hospital Colorado, hopes this project will improve the level of care for individuals after rotationplasty surgery and that research findings could be shared with the medical community.
“This current project has many layers and we hope to continue this collaboration in the future,” Kanai said.
Undergraduate research fellowships are administered by the research council. Students can apply for a fellowship to work on a project with a faculty member.
Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu