Mariana Kersh is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Director of the Tissue Biomechanics Laboratory. She holds degrees in English (BS), Mechanical Engineering (BS,MS) and Material Science (PhD). Her research focus is on the structure-mechanical function of orthopedic tissues during development as well as the progression of musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoporosis. She was a recipient of the Australia-New Zealand Orthopedic Research Society Early Career Award, the ORS Alice L. Jee Young Investigator Award, and recognized as a Spotlight New Investigator by ASME. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation in addition to biomedical industry and foundation grants.
Over a human lifespan of approximately 70 years, bone withstands millions of loading cycles from muscle forces with incredible resilience to fatigue. However, the mechanisms driving bone formation, organization, and strength are yet to be fully resolved. What is known is that the mechanical cues for bone development in mammals are a result of the dynamic muscle and joint forces experienced during locomotion, and less influenced by static gravitational forces. Therefore, the adaptation of bone to accommodate increased external forces occurs in a specific manner.
In this talk, I will present our recent efforts to understand the mechanics of bone during growth and with increased loading via exercise. First, using a murine model of growth, we investigated gait-driven determinants of spatially heterogeneous strain within the tibia using longitudinal imaging and multi-scale computational models. We also investigated these allometric relationships in equine bone to determine if these hold true for larger animals. Finally, we investigate changes in bone structure and composition when exercise is introduced during growth. Together, this information can provide structural cues indicative of bone strength that can be used as biomarkers for bone health during exercise-based interventions.