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written by Kathleen Clardy for Joint BME Communications


Associate Professor Jason Franz and an investigative team spanning principal investigators in the UNC College of Arts & Sciences, UNC School of Medicine, and NC State College of Engineering have received a $772k National Science Foundation Grant to revolutionize our region’s scientific and technological infrastructure for the quantitative measurement of human movement. Additional financial support was awarded from the Dean’s offices in the College of Arts & Sciences and the School of Medicine, along with the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME), Exercise and Sport Science (EXSS), and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. The grant will support not only the acquisition of a state-of-the-art high-speed biplane fluoroscopy system, but also technical support staffing, creation of a Collaborative Fluoroscopy Research Core, support for instructional innovation in the classroom, and development of new community outreach programs.

Dr. Franz said that this was a plan that started in concept nearly three years ago and was a true team effort, especially the Principal Investigative team: Dr. Brian Pietrosimone (UNC EXSS), Dr. Troy Blackburn (UNC EXSS), Dr. Kate Saul (NC State Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering), and Dr. Helen Huang (UNC/NC State BME). The proposal also received enthusiastic support from a broader network of scientists and engineers spanning UNC Greensboro, High Point University, NC A&T, and Elon University. “This acquisition is the first such instrument available to any of the students, faculty, and fellows at the 17 public UNC system campuses, and its availability has the potential to catalyze lasting new disciplinary, collaborative, and interdisciplinary research and educational impact across our region.”

High-speed biplane fluoroscopy systems provide continuous multi-dimensional cine x-ray images at up to 1000 samples/s. This process allows direct quantification of three-dimensional bone positions, orientations, and articulating surface mechanics that are impossible to capture with even the most sophisticated imaging technologies (e.g., MRI). The award will allow researchers and students to measure bone motion to help with understanding how musculoskeletal mechanics and function are achieved and maintained over a mammal’s lifespan. This award will also assist with establishing mechanistic links between movement biomechanics and underlying biology, identifying technological opportunities for surgical innovation, and introducing the next generation of rehabilitation robotics.

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