Vidt and Simon to begin project funded by Multidisciplinary Seed Grants program

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Meghan Vidt, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and Julianna Simon, assistant professor of acoustics, were recently awarded funding through the Penn State College of Engineering’s Multidisciplinary Research Seed Grants program.

“I am thrilled that our project has been selected as a recipient of a Multidisciplinary Research Seed Grant, as there were so many strong proposals in this year’s competition,” said Vidt. “This project is exciting because it applies established techniques in an innovative way to address a highly prevalent injury.”

Their project, titled “Focused ultrasound histotripsy as a novel therapeutic approach to tendon injury: an assessment of structural and mechanical properties,” seeks to explore the utility of a mechanical form of ultrasound therapy called histotripsy to treat tendon injury. Vidt and Simon will examine how histotripsy injury compares histologically and mechanically to dry needling. This information will also be used in development of a finite element model that will allow further exploration of parameters and enable scaling to represent humans in future studies.

“This project is a long way from clinical implementation, but eventually, we hope that a patient with pain from chronic tendon injury can go to a physical therapist’s or doctor’s office, have an ultrasound combination imaging and therapeutic probe placed on the site of pain or injury and be treated in a matter of minutes,” Simon explained. “We expect that adding ultrasound histotripsy to conventional physical therapy will speed the healing process and improve the integrity of the healing tendon, reducing the incidence of re-injury.”

Vidt received her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from North Carolina State University. Her doctorate in biomedical engineering was completed at the Virginia Tech – Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. She joined Penn State in August 2017 as joint faculty in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the College of Medicine. Vidt’s research focuses on musculoskeletal biomechanics of the upper extremity, employing a comprehensive approach to assess upper limb mobility and function in various populations, including aging and musculoskeletal injury.

Simon joined Penn State faculty in January 2017 in the Graduate Program in Acoustics. She earned her bachelor's degree in bioengineering from Washington State University and her doctoral degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington. Her research focuses on controlled soft tissue fractionation, bubble-based ultrasonic imaging and pulsed ultrasound therapy for fracture healing.

“I became interested in using ultrasound for musculoskeletal injuries when my horse tore a ligament in her leg,” said Simon. “As we were talking about possible treatments, an acoustic therapy called extracorporeal shock wave therapy was proposed. I began doing research on ultrasound and found that it can do more than just image different parts of the body – it can also be used as a therapeutic! This made me think – could the ultrasound pressure wave be used to speed healing and improve the integrity of healed tendon?”

Simon and Vidt first met at one of the Penn State New Faculty Workshops. “When I found out Dr. Vidt conducted research in tendons and knew of a particular clinical challenge – that of rotator cuff tendon tear – for which my idea of ultrasound histotripsy as a therapeutic could fit really well, we decided to figure out a means to collaborate. The seed grant opportunity came at just the right time to start talking and planning how we could work together to solve this real problem,” said Simon. “Dr. Vidt has a great deal of expertise in biomechanics and modeling, with connections into the orthopaedic realm. For the project to advance beyond the basic research and have even a chance of clinical implementation, having someone with Dr. Vidt’s expertise is essential.”

Vidt adds, “I am delighted to partner with Dr. Simon on this novel project, and I envision this study to be the start of a long-term collaboration between our labs. Once proven successful here, the possibilities for future clinical translation and impact on patient treatment paradigms is exciting and I am looking forward to getting started.”

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Last Updated February 13, 2018