Recipient of the Dr. Ramon Cugat and Dr. Montse Garcia Balletbo Research Scholarship

aimeepickeringAs a bioengineering student at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, I was honored to receive the Drs. Ramon and Montse Cugat Research Scholarship. This afforded me the opportunity to conduct research during the Summer of 2011 under the mentorship of Dr. Woo and graduate student, Mr. Kwang E. Kim. Under their guidance at the Musculoskeletal Research Center (MSRC), Department of Bioengineering, I not only gained valuable research experience, but I also grew as a problem solver and communicator. During my summer internship, my project involved performing biomechanical testing in order to determine the effectiveness of second generation magnesium (Mg)-based interference screws in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructions.

The ACL is one of the most commonly injured ligaments in the knee with over 100,000 cases occurring annually in the United States alone. The treatment for an ACL injury is a reconstruction in which an autograft, usually the patellar or hamstring tendon, is affixed within a bone tunnel using interference screws. However, the metallic and polymer interference screws currently used can result in complications. For this reason, the use of Mg-based screws are being explored. Through alloying and coating techniques, these screws can be designed to degrade at a controlled rate and then be replaced by the body’s native tissue. Additionally, Mg has attractive mechanical properties and does not interfere with MRI scans. The ultimate goal is to develop Mg-based interference screws as an effective alterna- tive to the current options.

When I arrived at the MSRC, I had little knowledge of the knee joint anatomy, ACL reconstructions, or biomechanical testing so I soon realized the importance of litera- ture research. In addition to educating myself on these subjects, I also learned how to use the materials testing machine and practiced ACL reconstructions on cadaveric goat stifle joints with Dr. Matteo Tei. After this initial learning period, I spent the remainder of my summer performing biomechanical testing on the control group, cadaveric goat stifle joints reconstructed using polymer interference screws. My testing confirmed that polymer screws are an effective control with which to compare Mg screws.

Throughout this experience at the MSRC, I have grown as a researcher and future bioengineer and will continue to do so. I would like to thank the Cugats for their generosity. Additionally, I would like to thank the ASIAM Institute Board of Directors for giving me this wonderful research opportunity.