Mechanical engineering paper among 2019’s Top Ten

Christian Puttlitz, Professor and Department Head of Mechanical Engineering, Walter Scott Jr. College of Engineering
Christian Puttlitz, Professor and Department Head of Mechanical Engineering, Walter Scott Jr. College of Engineering

The Journal of Biomechanical Engineering has selected a paper by Professor Christian Puttlitz, head of the Mechanical Engineering department, as one of its top 10 for 2019.

The paper, titled “Comparing Predictive Accuracy and Computational Costs for Viscoelastic Modeling of Spinal Cord Tissues,” was picked from more than 100 papers that appeared in the journal last year.

Collaborating on the paper were Nicole Ramo, who obtained her Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the School of Biomedical Engineering in 2018, and Kevin Troyer, faculty affiliate in Civil and Environmental Engineering at CSU and Staff Engineering Analyst at Woodward.

The research aims to define how the spinal cord deforms under external forces. The paper highlights the team’s discovery that individual tissues of the spinal cord complex behave in a unique way, which means each spinal cord tissue requires a different level of mechanical complexity to accurately predict its mechanical behavior, Troyer said.

“These sophisticated models can be used in computer simulations to predict spinal cord injury, which can be used to design advanced head and neck safety equipment or develop new spinal cord injury medical treatment strategies,” he said.

Kevin Troyer, Staff Engineer Analyst, Woodward Inc.
Kevin Troyer, Staff Engineer Analyst, Woodward Inc.

Predicting how tissue behaves

Ramo, now a post-doc at the University of Michigan, explained it this way: “When researchers seek to understand mechanical behavior, they often ‘fit’ a mathematical equation to experimental data – like adding a trendline to data in Excel. Similar to the trendline options in Excel, researchers working with soft biological tissues (like spinal tissues) must decide how complicated their mathematical equation should be to accurately model the behavior of interest. Most researchers base this decision largely on how well the resulting equation matches or ‘fits’ the observed experimental data; however, the real value of developing such a model equation is to be able to predict how the tissue responds to stimuli not experimentally tested.”

Research in the Puttlitz laboratory focuses on using experimental and computation techniques to investigate orthopaedic conditions and their treatments.

The JBME Editors’ Choice papers “best exemplified the high quality and significance of work in JBME,” said the journal’s Editors-in-Chief, Beth A. Winkelstein and Victor H. Barocas. The list appeared in an annual special issue in February.

The Journal of Biomedical Engineering reports research tying mechanical engineering to human health.