In the Henak Lab, we study orthopedic biomechanics and mechanobiology, with a core hypothesis that the microscale mechanical environment can be used to predict, delay, and prevent orthopedic diseases. Our current research is focused on three central themes: (1) failure in orthopedic tissues; (2) evaluation of material behavior; and (3) regeneration and repair.
Failure in Orthopedic Tissues
Orthopedic tissues are predominantly load-bearing, so understanding mechanically-mediated failure is important. Current projects in this area include: fracture across loading rates, cartilage-cartilage fatigue loading, and computationally-predicted bone fracture risk.
Evaluation of Material Behavior
Material behavior of orthopedic tissues is indicative of tissue health and can be used to build subject-specific computational models. Current projects in this area include: MR-based non-invasive estimation of cartilage material properties, characterization of cartilage material behavior from pigs raised under different dietary conditions, spatial heterogeneity in the material behavior of dog teeth, and poroviscoelastic energy dissipation in cartilage.
Regeneration and Repair
Regeneration and repair is key to overcoming the failure studied in theme one, but many orthopedic tissues are relatively hindered in this regard due to challenging mechanical environments coupled with low cell density and hypovascularization. Ultimately, we want to understand and manipulate regeneration and repair following injury as a means to improve patient outcomes. Current projects in this area include: short-term metabolic response to mechanical stimuli, cartilage-cartilage integration, and maturity-dependent changes in metabolism.