We investigate joint shape, musculature, and associated biomechanics as they change due to injury or disease and how we can improve interventions to preserve or restore joint health.

Our work links outward manifestations of pathology (e.g. functional deficits) with internal abnormalities (e.g. bone deformity, muscle dysfunction). We study how alterations to joint shape, muscle function, and movement patterns can detrimentally affect joint loading and lead to damage and osteoarthritis. Our studies combine tools within the categories of in-vivo biomechanics, medical imaging (e.g. CT and MRI), and subject-specific musculoskeletal modeling. By applying these tools in interdisciplinary teams with our partners in orthopaedic surgery, engineering, radiology, and physical therapy, we can improve surgical interventions, inform targeted rehabilitation, and enhance quality of life for people dealing with hip pain and osteoarthritis.

Faculty Investigators

Michael D. Harris, PhD [Profile ]

Current Members

Paige Burnet, BS
Independent Study student; BS student – Biomedical Engineering / Computer Science


Ke Song, MS
PhD Candidate, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science


Molly Shepherd, BS
PhD Student, Movement Science


Spencer Williams
Research Assistant, BS Student – Biomedical Engineering


Tina Wu
DPT Research Assistant


Past Members

Brecca Gaffney, PhD (Postdoctoral Research Scholar)
Elizabeth Saliba (Independent Study Student, Mechanical Engineering)
Lauren Westen, BA (DPT Student and Research Assistant)
Jacqueline Foody, BS (Research Assistant, BS Student-Mechanical Engineering)
Julia Blumkaitis, BS (Research Technician)
Carly Krull (BS Student-Biomedical Engineering)
Hannah Steele (DPT Student and Research Assistant)

Current Research Studies

Bone-Muscle Relationships in Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip
Funding Source: NIH, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Skin Diseases (K01AR072072)

Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) is a major cause of hip osteoarthritis, especially in adolescents and young adults. The common model of the DDH disease process is that bony deformities of the acetabulum (hip socket) and femur fail to stabilize the hip, which leads to painful mechanical injuries to the cartilage and acetabular labrum. We are investigating a revised model of DDH that includes not only the abnormal bone but also how the bone changes muscle mechanics, movement patterns, and loading. Our studies are clarifying the relationships between abnormal bone and muscle and how together they contribute to DDH symptomatology and joint damage.

Check out:
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28233552/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30663342/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33812201/
https://www.ors.org/Transactions/65/1930.pdf

Real and Simulated Multi-Domain Biomechanics After Clinical Interventions for DDH
Funding: NIH, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (P30AR074992), NIH NIAMS F32 AR075349

Clinical interventions like periacetabular osteotomy surgery can relieve pain for many patients with DDH, but many other patients have lingering pain and functional impairments. Likewise, physical therapy may help patients with pain and movement problems, but there are no physical therapy standards for patients with DDH. In this project, we collect data from patients before and after surgery to quantify mechanical changes to the bone, muscle, and cartilage.  We also simulate surgery and physical therapy with musculoskeletal models to provide new answers for why some patients respond well to surgery and others do not.

Check out:
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31708245/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33422726/

Statistical Shape Modeling of DDH
Funding Source: Washington University

The bony deformities of DDH are inherently three-dimensional and can vary considerably. We use statistical shape modeling to describe 3D variations among the femurs and acetabula in patients with DDH. These shape models help us more comprehensively understand how deformities develop, where shape variation is most common, and how this information can assist surgeons treating patients with challenging cases of dysplasia.

Check out:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30656719
https://www.ors.org/Transactions/65/0310.pdf

The Biomechanical Consequences of Femoral Version Deformity and Surgical Correction in Patients with Hip Dysplasia
Funding Source: American Society of Biomechanics Junior Faculty Research Award

Two major contributors to hip dysplasia biomechanics remain vastly understudied – muscle forces and the femur. This project investigates how femoral deformities, and subsequent surgical correction, influence muscle-driven forces in patients with hip dysplasia during common ambulatory activities. Study results will help inform more optimal treatment for individual patients through consideration of bone (acetabulum and femur) and muscle mechanics together.