Unlocking the Mysteries of Joint Paint May Lead to New Treatments

December 10, 2007 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

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The mechanics and mysteries of joint pain are being unlocked by Dr. Gail Thornton by linking the joints and tendons (throughout the body that allows movement) to towering skyscrapers and large bridges spanning deep valleys.

What a comparison, you might think, but according to Dr. Thornton — an assistant professor in the University of Calgary’s faculties of Medicine and Engineering, who carries out her research in the McCaig Centre for Joint Injury and Arthritis Research — same design principles are at work between joint and tendons and towering skyscrapers and large bridges spanning deep valleys.

Both an engineer and medical researcher, Dr. Thornton is now doing research work that could lead to new treatments for people suffering from repetitive stress injuries, a very common type of injury.

Remember to the joint pain is a symptom of knee osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis of the knee.

“We need to understand more about what’s happening to the way ligaments and tendons perform their functions; only then can we try to intervene and prevent damage from happening or improve therapies.

There are still many unknowns about the way our complex system of ligaments, tendons and bones work together and, when injured, how they heal best.

Thornton’s applying design principles used more commonly by engineers to uncover some of the mysteries.

Thornton’s specific focus is knee ligaments and their response to damage, such as an injury from repeatedly putting too much stress — or load — onto the ligaments over long periods of time. When one ligament is damaged in the knee — think about removing a load-bearing wall from a building — the remaining three ligaments in the knee must carry the weight, making the person more prone to a bad injury.

When baseball pitchers make each throw, the rotator cuff tendons in their shoulders have increased loads placed on them. Thornton’s research could lead to new ways to lessen the damage to them or better ways to treat their injuries.

Because she works so closely with other doctors in a vast range of disciplines, her research can be more easily incorporated into real-world treatments.”

Find more details from Science Daily.

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