This year’s Stepping Strong Innovator Awards finalists are addressing complex challenges related to trauma research. Each of the three finalists hopes to receive the $100,000 Stepping Strong Innovator Awards, which will be announced online on Monday, Oct. 17. Read about their work below, and vote for your choice.
21st Century Tools to Measure the Progress of Bone Healing – Michael J. Weaver, MD
What challenge does your project address?
Fractures are an extremely common result of trauma—whether they result from a car accident, an injury on the battlefield or a bad fall. While huge advances have been made in the surgical treatment of fractures, there are currently no medications available to help speed bone healing. The primary reason for this deficit is that, based on current technology, it is challenging to accurately measure bone healing, which makes drug trials exceedingly difficult to perform.
The goal of our project is to develop a reliable method of accurately measuring bone healing. This will enable us to collaborate with pharmaceutical companies to develop medications to improve and accelerate the often lengthy bone healing process.
What is a compelling aspect of your project?
Our project involves combining our understanding of bone healing with advances in CT scan technology that will allow us to measure microscopic changes in bone. We will develop a tool that allows us to measure how much motion occurs between the bone ends at a fracture site, such as a wrist fracture, during the healing process. The device will apply a small load, at a level that produces minimal discomfort, to the broken bone. A high-resolution CT scan will then be used to measure how much motion occurs. Knowing that fractures become stiffer as the healing process progresses, the device will measure the bone knitting together, with less motion over time.
This combination of technologies will allow us to more precisely measure bone healing than previously possible, as well as help to spur the development of medications that can expedite it.
How will your project benefit future patients who suffer from trauma-related injuries?
Over 7 million people break a bone every year. While there are numerous drugs to treat other common medical problems like high blood pressure or asthma, there are no medications to help heal broken bones. The goal of this project is to develop a tool to better measure bone healing, thus spurring drug development companies to discover medications that will both improve the speed of recovery and decrease the challenge of healing problems. Anyone who has had a broken bone, or knows someone who has, knows how difficult the recovery process is. Innovations such as the one we are proposing that speed the healing process will result in less pain, a quicker recovery and the hope that patients can quickly resume their everyday routines.
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