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Engineering the rotator cuff

Engineering the rotator cuff

Photo by Evan Krape

UD’s Killian to participate in movement and rehabilitation sciences career development program

Megan Killian, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Delaware, has been selected as a scholar for the Interdisciplinary Rehabilitation Engineering Career Development Program (IREK12) in Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences, which operates out of Northwestern University.

Killian’s research will focus on rotator cuff tears, a common orthopedic problem that leads to shoulder pain, dysfunction and degeneration.

“Surgical repair is the primary treatment for functional reattachment of torn cuff tendons to bone, accounting for more than 75,000 orthopedic operations each year in the United States,” she says.

“Rotator cuff degeneration, which elevates the risk of repair-site failure, often results from impaired regeneration of the fibrocartilage and failed healing of the repaired attachment. One approach to improve regeneration and healing is to leverage insight from how the native cuff naturally develops.”

Killian explains that during embryonic and postnatal growth, the cuff tendons attach to bone and mature into a tough fibrocartilage attachment. While efforts have been made to identify biological factors that drive the natural formation of this attachment, it remains unclear what factors regulate its maturation as well as its innate capacity for regeneration.

“Identifying the developmental cues necessary for fibrocartilage attachment maturation will help guide future repair and rehabilitative strategies,” she says.

Killian will be mentored at UD by an interdisciplinary team that includes Dawn Elliott, professor and chair of biomedical engineering; Karin Silbernagel, assistant professor of physical therapy; and Liyun Wang, professor of mechanical engineering.

“This unique, all-female team will be instrumental in my success by providing me with training in mechanical modeling, patient-oriented treatment and outcomes, and advanced imaging techniques,” Killian says. “Each mentor will provide critical feedback on my grants, access to facilities in their research laboratories, and intellectual contributions for my future research proposals.”

In August 2017, Killian will attend a four-day clinical boot camp and training event at Northwestern, where she will present her research at the annual Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences Training Day.

The mission of the IREK12 program is to recruit and train young faculty with engineering and other quantitative backgrounds to become successful rehabilitation scientists in basic, translational and/or clinical research. The award will provide Killian with career development support for up to three years.

The support covers 75 to 100 percent of Killian’s current salary and provides an additional $25,000 to cover research and career development expenses, such as travel for training or to scientific meetings; research supplies and equipment; and technical support and statistical or computer services.

About the award

The IREK12 program in movement and rehabilitation sciences was created by a consortium of leading institutions in the field including Northwestern University, University of California at Irvine and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/North Carolina State University in partnership with Case Western Reserve University, Marquette University, Stanford University, UD and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

The program is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under award number K12HD073945.

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