Spine Research Institute expands scope of NSF musculoskeletal innovation center

Posted: September 20, 2018

A collaborative healthcare research center funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) has added the expertise of The Ohio State University’s Spine Research Institute.

The Center for Disruptive Musculoskeletal Innovations (CDMI) is an NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) launched in 2014 by the University of California San Francisco and the University of Toledo. CDMI represents an exciting and novel integration of healthcare economics, biomedical science and clinical medicine. University faculty and industry partners are able to collaborate on novel technologies that will decrease healthcare costs and improve the management and life of patients with musculoskeletal disease.

According to Spine Research Institute (SRI) Executive Director and Engineering Professor Bill Marras, Ohio State brings complementary research strengths to CDMI.

“Much of the work we do is focused on musculoskeletal disorder causal pathways and prevention, especially in the spine,” he said. “An understanding of these pathways is the key to helping industry partners prevent disorders from occurring in the workplace.”

Marras adjusts a workplace exoskeleton during a recent research evaluation
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a major cause of lost work time and the leading cause of disability worldwide, but current treatments for many types of MSDs often are difficult or unsuccessful. U.S. employers spend about $30 billion each year just to treat employee back pain. The Ohio State SRI team will develop intervention concepts with applications to occupational workplace designs, healthcare delivery, sports medicine, the military and the service industry.

With industry partner involvement, Marras said first-year projects likely will include evaluation of exoskeletons and wearable sensors in physically demanding work environments, as well as development of guidelines on safe item handling.

Each NSF I/UCRC is established to conduct research of interest to both the industry and university with which it is involved, with the provision industry partners must provide major support to the center at all times. These centers rely the involvement of graduate students in their research projects, thus developing students knowledgeable in industrially relevant research. SRI's addition to CDMI is funded by an NSF I/UCRC grant.

CDMI industry members each contribute $40,000 annually for a seat on the advisory board and the ability to direct what research topics the center pursues.

Category: Research