Abstract: The musculoskeletal system is comprised of large load bearing soft tissues that absorb and distribute the complex loads placed on the joint. Degeneration of these tissues, including articular cartilage and the intervertebral disc of the spine, is the leading cause of disability in Americans, contributing to over $130 billion in medical costs. These tissues have limited ability to self heal, and current treatment options, including total joint replacement with a device comprised of metal and plastic components, significantly alters the loading environment. This talk will focus on recent advances in understanding disc biomechanics with hydration and injury. Furthermore, I will discuss recent advances in large-scale development of biological treatment options through cartilage tissue engineering.
Bio: Dr. Grace D. O’Connell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the co-director of the Berkeley Biomechanics Laboratory, and her research interests are in soft tissue mechanobiology and tissue engineering. O’Connell received her BS degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland and her PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania, where her research focused on intervertebral disc biomechanics with age, degeneration, and injury. She then conducted a postdoctoral research in cartilage tissue engineering with Dr. Clark Hung at the University of Columbia. O’Connell’s research group is currently evaluating the role of tissue swelling and stress homeostasis in injured and degenerated intervertebral discs. She has received many awards including the 2017 ACS Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering (PMSE) Young Investigator Award and the Signatures Fellow for Innovation. She is also an active member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering – Biomechanics Division and is the Scholarship Chair for the Golden Gate Section of the Society of Women Engineers.