Our group carries out state-of-the-art research in musculoskeletal, vascular diseases and medical devices.
MERG sits within the School of Engineering & the Built Environment and consists of scientists from Anglia Ruskin University, physicians from Mid-Essex Hospitals Trust and Springfield Ramsay Hospital and collaborators from industry, who combine forces to address common debilitating clinical problems, such as osteoarthritis and venous ulcers.
Our collaboration with the Hospital for Special Surgery aims to advance research on realignment surgery, to delay the onset of osteoarthritis and the need for knee replacement, and to assist with the design of our new Medical Engineering Laboratory. Other projects include treatment evaluation for osteoarthritis of the big toe, the wrist and the hip.
Jointly with Columbia University, USA, we are also modelling human reconstructed joints in order to understand the effect of tissue properties on joint stress, which is a precursor to osteoarthritis.
Our research is externally funded through organisations including Arthritis Research UK, the Chelmsford Medical Education and Research Trust, Hospital for Special Surgery, in addition to medical companies internationally.
Our research themes fall into three distinct categories:
If you wish to collaborate or explore possible areas of research our specialisms might support, then please contact Dr Rajshree Hillstrom, Director of our Medical Engineering Research Group.
Our aim is to provide engineering solutions to medical problems, through experimental and theoretical assessment, to help improve clinical outcomes of patients receiving conservative and surgical treatments for musculoskeletal pathologies and enhance circulatory function of vascular structures.
Our mission is to advance state-of-the-art in research in musculoskeletal, vascular diseases and medical devices through the application of engineering in medicine for improved quality of life.
We’re based in Chelmsford, in The MedBIC (Business Innovation Centre, Medical and Advanced Engineering) and use other specialist facilities on campus, including the Movement Analysis Laboratory and the Advanced Medical Engineering Computational Simulation Suite.
The Movement Analysis Laboratory has been carefully designed to allow a range of research, teaching and clinical activities. This enables the analysis of healthy, pathologic and athletic movement patterns. A large mass floor system minimises vibration-induced errors to sensitive equipment, such as the force plates, cameras and material testing machine. Ground reaction forces are measured with adjustably repositionable force plates to ensure flexibility of research activities. This is the first of its kind in the UK. A prototype of this approach can be found in the Leon Root Motion Analysis Laboratory (LRMAL) at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), one of the leading orthopaedic and rheumatology hospitals in the United States. Our laboratory design was developed by Dr Howard Hillstrom, Director of the LRMAL, who has significantly contributed his knowledge and expertise towards the development of the MEL right from the initial stage.
The MedBIC is home to our six-degree-of-freedom joint simulator (the VIVO testing machine from the AMTI), the first one to be owned by a University in the UK. This machine allows us to input kinetic and kinematic data of functional activities from the movement analysis laboratory to drive the actuators and apply physiological loads to testing specimens.
We were awarded £300,000 from the Science Research Investment Fund in December 2008 to buy capital equipment, including:
Dr Rajshree Hillstrom was recently invited to deliver a TEDx talk at the RWTH Aachen University, Germany, in June 2018. Her talk explained how engineering can be used to solve medical problems associated with osteoarthritis. Read the full news article for further details.
Dr Rajshree Hillstrom, Director of the Medical Engineering Research Group (MERG) and Reader in Medical Engineering, delivered a tutorial on ‘Finite element modelling to predict joint stress’ at the 2018 International Foot and Ankle Biomechanics (i-FAB) meeting in April, New York.
This places our University on the same platform as other leading institutions in the field, including Oxford University, Hospital for Special Surgery, University of Rizzoli, Staffordshire University and University of Massachusetts.
Excessive stress damages tissues within the joint and is considered a risk factor for osteoarthritis, the number one cause of disability, exceeding 1% of the gross national product in both the UK and US and increasing in prevalence as the population ages and becomes more obese. Hence, it is important to monitor joint stress. However, stress cannot be measured in vivo. In vitro experiments are expensive and may not accurately represent in vivo tissue properties. Finite element modelling is a useful computational method to predict joint stress before and after treatment, thereby helping clinicians make informed decisions on the selection of treatment methods. This is a powerful tool to investigate the impact of surgical procedures on joint stress.
Dr Rajshree Hillstrom, assisted by PhD student and Research Assistant, Oliver Morgan, presented a step-by-step method for developing a simple finite element model of a joint, followed by an introduction on the rationale for the use of finite element methods for clinical applications by Dr Howard Hillstrom, based upon his 90 studies in lower extremity biomechanics. During this hands-on session, participants developed their own finite element models and ran analyses. This was followed by an explanation on how to develop anatomically complex models. Participants split into groups to solve the stress in the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint for different tissue properties and surgical corrections.
MERG will also disseminate its latest research findings through three presentations on the effect of foot structure, foot function and surgical treatments on joint stress in the big toe.
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of 'First', our faculty research newsletter.