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Interdisciplinary ACL research project receives University support

Spencer Szczesny, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and orthopaedics and rehabilitation, and Aman Dhawan, MD, sports medicine orthopedic surgeon and associate professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation, have been awarded one of two annual Grace Woodward Grants for Collaborative Research in Engineering and Medicine, an award given by Penn State to selected interdisciplinary research teams.

A head-and-shoulders professional picture of Spencer Szczesny, PhD

Spencer Szczesny, PhD

The pair was awarded $50,000 to study patient rehabilitation and recovery after reconstructive surgery for tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The ACL, located within the knee, is essential for stable joint motion and is most commonly repaired through surgery.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans experience ACL tears on average every year. About 70 percent of all ACL reconstructive surgeries are in active individuals aged 35 and under, as the injury can frequently result from sporting accidents, such as skiing.

The reconstructive surgery involves anchoring a tendon graft in the same location in the knee as the original ligament.

A head-and-shoulders professional picture of Aman Dhawan, MD

Aman Dhawan, MD

“This study represents an exciting collaboration between bioengineers at the College of Engineering and academic surgeons at the College of Medicine to tackle a real-life common clinical challenge,” Dhawan said. “This research will go a long way to help us fundamentally understand graft biology and mechanics, changing the way we view and perform ACL surgery in the future.”

Preliminary work on the project began earlier this year and is planned to continue throughout the two-year project period.

The Grace Woodward Grants for Collaborative Research in Engineering and Medicine are given annually by Penn State’s College of Engineering and College of Medicine. They are made possible by the support of endowments from the estate of Grace Woodward, a longtime friend and supporter of the University. The program is designed to encourage genuine collaborations between engineers and clinicians or biomedical scientists that involve either new avenues of research or the feasibility testing of new medical devices, instrumentation or other diagnostic or therapeutic modalities.

Read more about the project on Penn State News.

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