Knee pain—oftentimes exacerbated by arthritis, obesity or aging—is one condition that brings some clients to massage therapy, and is a condition that is growing in its prevalence in the U.S.

One recent study from researchers at Boston University School of Medicine showed “the prevalence of knee pain has increased substantially over 20 years, independent of age and BMI. Obesity accounted for only part of this increase. Symptomatic knee osteoarthritis [also] increased.”

Now, a Cleveland Clinic research team is developing virtual models of human knee joints to better understand how tissues and their individual cells react to heavy loads—virtual models that someday can be used to understand damage mechanisms caused by the aging process or by debilitating diseases, such as osteoarthritis, according to a Cleveland Clinic press release.

Led by Ahmet Erdemir, Ph.D., the team is leveraging the powerful computing systems of the Ohio Supercomputer Center to develop state-of-the-art computational representations of the human body to understand how movement patterns and loads on the joints deform the surrounding tissues and cells, according to the press release. Erdemir is the director of the Computational Biomodeling Core (CoBi) and a faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Lerner Research Institute (LRI) in Cleveland, Ohio.

“The aging process and debilitating diseases affect many aspects of the mechanical function of the human body: from the way we move to how our muscles, joints, tissues, and cells accommodate the loading exerted on the body during daily activities,” Erdemir explained. “Computational modeling techniques provide an avenue to obtain additional insights about mechanics at various spatial scales.”

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