Skeletal muscles are the motors for all of the wide range of voluntary movements. Each muscle's properties are beautifully tuned or "designed" for a specific function in the body. This tuning is achieved through variations in several structural components of muscle and can be easily disrupted by misuse or disease. The goal of our research is to identify the principles of muscle design by characterizing the relationships between muscle structure, mechanical properties, biology, and function. We are applying these findings to understanding and improving the treatments for musculoskeletal impairments associated with movement disorders, such as cerebral palsy.
We are integrating a variety of computational and experimental approaches to achieve this goal. We create computational models of the musculoskeletal system that describe the complex three-dimensional architecture and geometry of muscles (for example, a model of the gluteus maximus muscle is shown here). We also develop nonlinear constitutive relationships for muscle that represent the properties of muscle cells and extra-cellular connective tissues. We use dynamic magnetic resonance imaging techniques to study the deformation and motion of muscles during joint movement. We perform anatomical measurements and tissue testing to characterize the arrangements of proteins in muscle and to determine the material properties of muscle tissue.