World Congress of Biomechanics 2018

The entire group (including alumnus Stefaan) traveled to Dublin for the 2018 World Congress of Biomechanics in July. Between us, we presented seven talks and one poster, as listed below. Aurélie and Kaushik also presented abstracts based on their PhD projects. Niamh was Co-Chair for the ‘Emerging Areas’ Track and a Session Chair for the “Biomechanics of Musculoskeletal Development” session. A particular highlight of the meeting was Stefaan giving a plenary lecture to mark the Perren Award.

Aurélie: Critical timings of fetal mobility for spine and rib development

Cristian: Frequency and duration of mechanical stimulation influence mineralisation of developing chick limbs cultured in vitro

Devi: Timing of movement is essential for cavitation and morphogenesis of the developing chick hip joint

Kaushik: Musculoskeletal forces and prenatal skeletogenesis: a murine model

Niamh: Directing cartilage growth in vitro: learning from developmental biology

Saima: Characterisation of collagen distribution in the prenatal forelimb using immunofluorescence and high-resolution microscopy

Stefaan: Biomechanical stimulation of the fetal skeleton linked to risk factors for developmental dysplasia of the hip

Vivien: Shoulder joint shape is rescued as development progresses when limb musculature is absent in the murine embryo


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(Image credits: Cristian Parisi, Devi Bridglal, @WCB2018, Saima Ahmed, Aurélie Levillain)

Kaushik is awarded Marie Curie Fellowship

Kaushik has been awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship, to start in September 2018. Kaushik’s fellowship is entitled “Mechanobiology of Proprioceptive Regulation of Bone and Joint Morphogenesis” and will involve collaboration between the Developmental Biomechanics group at Imperial College London, and the Zelzer Lab at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. Congratulations Kaushik!

Paper on new type of fetal movement monitor published

Niamh’s paper on a new type of fetal movement monitor has been published in PLoS One. You can read the paper here. The work was a collaboration with Dr Ravi Vaidyanathan from Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College, and Mr Christoph Lees (Faculty of Medicine, Department of Surgery & Cancer, Imperial College London), together with other engineering and clinical colleagues.

Fetal movements are an important sign of the health of the baby, but there is currently no objective way to measure the frequency or type of movements outside of a hospital.  A wearable and non-transmitting system capable of sensing fetal movements over extended periods of time would be extremely valuable, not only for monitoring individual fetal health, but also for establishing normal levels of movement in the population at large. In this paper, we introduce a new wearable system based on a novel combination of accelerometers and bespoke acoustic sensors as well as an advanced signal processing architecture to identify and discriminate between types of fetal movements. We validate the system with concurrent ultrasound tests and demonstrate that the garment is capable of both detecting and discriminating the vigorous, whole-body ‘startle’ movements of a fetus. Ongoing work aims to increase the accuracy and specificity of the sensor, bringing us closer to future clinical trials of the device.

The work was featured on the Imperial College website.

Perren Award paper on link between hip dysplasia and fetal movements published

Stefaan’s final and Perren Award winning paper from his postdoc in the Developmental Biomechanics has been published online in the Journal of Biomechanics. In the paper, the effects of different risk factors for hip dysplasia (such as fetal breech position, first born babies and oligohydramnios (reduced amniotic fluid)) on fetal kicks and the stresses and strains in their hip joints are quantified. Kick force, stress and strain were found to be significantly lower in cases of breech position and oligohydramnios. Similarly, firstborn fetuses were found to generate significantly lower kick forces than non-firstborns.

ESB travel awards for Aurélie and Cristian!

Congratulations to Aurélie and Cristian who have received travel awards from the European Society of Biomechanics for the World Congress of Biomechanics in Dublin in July! Aurélie will present her work on ‘Critical timings of fetal mobility for spine and rib development’ and Cristian will present work entitled ‘Frequency and duration of mechanical stimulation influence mineralisation of developing chick limbs cultured in vitro’. Well done!

ESB S.M. Perren Award for paper on fetal movement-hip dysplasia link

Congratulations to Stefaan and co-authors whose paper entitled “Altered Biomechanical Stimulation of the Developing Hip Joint in Presence of Hip Dysplasia Risk Factors” (soon to be published in the Journal of Biomechanics) has been awarded the 2018 S.M. Perren Award by the European Society of Biomechanics! Stefaan will present a plenary lecture of the World Congress of Biomechanics in Dublin, Ireland in July. hip_dysplasia.png

Two travel awards for Saima- congratulations!

Congratulations to Saima who has been awarded, not one, but two travel awards/grants for conference travel this summer. Saima received the British Society of Matrix Biology FECTS bursary to attend the Matrix Biology Europe conference (worth approx £1,000) and the the Physiological Society Travel Grant, worth up to £700, to attend the 8th World Congress of Biomechanics, Dublin: Well done Saima!

Fetal movement sensor paper published

Our paper on developing a new type of sensor for fetal movements has been published in PLoS One! The paper describes how acoustic sensors are combined with accelerometers for the first time. The sensor was able to detect and identify the short, rigorous ‘startle’ movements of the fetus. Further development is ongoing, but this is an important first step! The work builds on a patent held by the several of the authors, including Niamh.

Citation: Lai J, Woodward R, Alexandrov Y, ain Munnee Q, Lees CC, Vaidyanathan R, Nowlan NC. Performance of a wearable acoustic system for fetal movement discrimination. PloS one. 2018 May 7;13(5):e0195728.

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Royal Society Meeting on ‘Mechanics of Development’

Niamh was the lead organiser of a meeting hosted by the Royal Society on the ‘Mechanics of Development’ at Chicheley Hall from 5-7 February. The topics covered included brain, bone, heart and gut development, and the speakers and participants were from a broad range of backgrounds including cell biology, developmental biology, physics and engineering. Aurelie presented a poster, and several other members of the group attended the meeting.

Paper on fetal movement forces published in Interface

Stefaan‘s work on quantifying the stresses and strains induced by fetal kicks over gestation has been published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. The work attracted a lot of publicity, being featured by Nature, Science and Newsweek and on the Imperial College website. Congratulations Stefaan! See here for the online version of the paper, and access the pdf here.