Bone mechanics

Italian and Australian researchers are figuring out how bones and joints fail.

Almost five million Australians over 50 suffer from osteoporosis, and the number is rising.

In Saulo Martelli’s lab at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australian and Italian researchers are using high-resolution bone imaging devices, supercomputing models and even the Australian Synchrotron to better understand bones and joints and improve joint replacements.

Saulo’s current research focuses on the bone mechanics of ageing Australians and how normal exercise impacts bone strength.

“This research could also impact the development of new bio-mimetic materials and human-machine interface issues,” Saulo says, which could improve the lives of people with certain disabilities.

Saulo is also collaborating with researchers from the biomechanics group at the University of Bologna, which has more than 20 years of experience in the biomechanical testing of bones.

The high-resolution bone imaging devices at Flinders, which use powerful supercomputers to replicate the impact of regular physical activity on bone, make it an enticing destination for international researchers, Saulo says.

Recently Marco Palanca visited from Bologna to use state-of-the-art technology to replicate falls that produce hip fractures, and also used the Australian Synchrotron to image femur specimens in detail.

Another Italian researcher, Francesca Bucci, visited while developing personalised biomechanical models for patients suffering from severe hip osteoarthritis that could reduce surgical errors during joint restoration.

“The idea of improving knowledge and technology, and ultimately improving quality of life, is very exciting,” Saulo says.

Banner image: A model of a hip bone. Credit: Saulo Martelli