About this Research Topic
Aging is naturally accompanied by decreasing musculoskeletal strength, pain and restricted movement in the spine and articular joints. In several cases, the presence of structural degenerative changes in the spine, hips, knees and other joints generates chronic pain, the impact of which on activity limitation, work capability and cost for health systems is huge and increasing with time. A comprehensive understanding of the effect of these structural changes on the biomechanics of the joints is crucial for the selection of the diagnostic tools to be used to gain insight into the specific characteristics of degenerated biological tissues. A better knowledge of the biomechanical basis of tissue degeneration may also support the development and the choice of possible treatments addressing a patient-specific degenerative condition.
Mathematical models of the spine and joints have been widely employed for the investigation of their biomechanics and related phenomena, alone or in combination with in vitro and in vivo measurements. Continuum mechanics theory provides the tools to build a system of partial differential equations and boundary conditions representing arbitrary mechanical systems, such as the lumbar spine or the knee joint. Discretization methods such as the finite element method allow to find a solution to such a system, by approximating it with a system of ordinary differential or algebraic equations which can be solved by means of standard numerical algorithms.
Models including degenerative changes of biological tissues show clear advantages if compared to other investigative methods. For example, in in vitro tests the occurrence of the different degenerative changes cannot be controlled, being highly dependent on the availability of the specimens which are usually in a limited number and often severely degenerated. On the contrary, a numerical model may arbitrarily include individual degenerative changes or any combination of them, representing a wide range of clinical scenarios, from mild to highly severe degeneration.
This Research Topic is aimed to build a collection of articles covering the topic of numerical modeling of orthopedic degenerative diseases, with special emphasis on novel methods which go beyond the consolidated approach of pure structural simulations using commercial finite element packages. Papers about advanced topics such as osmoviscoelasticity, nutrition of the biological tissues, micromechanical models as well as modeling of biological repair strategies would stimulate further innovation and strengthen the interest of basic scientists to these clinically relevant diseases.
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