Jason Franz, Associate Professor in Joint BME, has received a 5-year, $2.7M R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health titled “A framework for feasible translation to enhance foot and ankle function in aging and mobility”. The project is an inter-disciplinary effort, including contributions from Co-PI Dr. Kota Takahashi, an Assistant Professor of Health and Kinesiology at the University of Utah, Clinical Co-Investigator Dr. Howard Kashefsky, UNC Associate Professor of Surgery and Director of Podiatric Services, and Co-Investigator Dr. Todd Schwartz, UNC Professor of Biostatistics.
Together, the researchers will investigate the scientific premise that age-related reductions in walking performance and economy (i.e., “gas mileage”) have been mistakenly attributed solely to muscles spanning the ankle, and instead originate interdependently with unfavorable changes in the active, passive, and structural regulation of foot stiffness and power. The purpose of the work is to reduce metabolic energy costs during walking in older adults and improve gait performance by testing the efficacy of shoe stiffness modifications to augment foot structure. Ultimately, the project addresses the need for new and modifiable targets to enhance mobility and independence – paving the way for feasible and cost-effective assistive devices for millions in our aging population.