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Other Tech4Pod initiatives In addition to the work overseen by Dr. Gerald Harris, other Marquette researchers are taking lead roles in Tech4Pod projects. Dr. Brian Schmit, a biomechanical engineering professor, is tracking the brain activity of children with cerebral palsy. Some patients have hamstring-lengthening surgery, in which the hamstring muscle/ tendon is cut in a way that allows it to better stretch out. Others have a surgical

Shriners measure the forces applied as

close to thresholds of acute injury at the

a subject walks — Harris and his team

shoulder joint, depending on what their

hope to help prevent fractures in OI

patterns look like,” Harris says.

patients by modifying children’s activities

Harris also is studying children with

and designing better assistive walking

flatfoot who have had implants, hoping

devices to absorb forces.

to improve treatment planning and post-

“It’s really cutting-edge,” Harris says.

treatment follow-up.

transfer of wrist tendons to help restore muscle function. The team measures patients’ brain activity before surgery and tracks how that activity changes as patients go through robot-assisted rehabilitation exercises after their procedures. Researchers are looking for signs that patients’ central nervous

“And what it means to us is we hope to

The research being carried out by

be able to take a child with OI, do a couple

Harris and the rest of the Tech4Pod team

of assessments, and then be able to

requires the participation of families like

longer-term outcomes by influencing the

prescribe safe activities that would

the Wacasters, who hope to contribute

development of central nervous system

increase their sports, their physical

to something that helps other kids in

tracks,” Harris says.

function, their integration with their

the future.

peers and community, their mobility — and, ultimately, their quality of life.” Researchers also are studying cases of

systems are adapting. “It means you might be able to impact

The project involves developing robotic

“There was so little research in

therapy devices that patients could use at

this area,” says Lillie’s mother, Priscilla

home. Schmit is leading the development

Wacaster, who also has OI. “And how you

of a device for lower-body therapy. Dr. Taly Gilat-Schmidt, an assistant

severe clubfoot, a congenital condition

walk, how you play, how you interact

that causes an infant’s foot to turn inward

with people — this is everyday stuff. The

and downward. Clubfoot often is treated

surgeries are important, but the orthotics

with corrective casts. By analyzing the

in your shoe make a difference in how

tissue of deformed feet and the types of

you walk, which makes a difference in

move inside the foot as a patient walks.

casts used to correct them, Harris and

how you go to school. It’s affecting your

The system would be significantly more

his team hope to identify treatments that

day-to-day life.”

accurate than the current method of using

best keep the condition from recurring. Another part of Harris’ research focuses on studying the strain children

Lillie, fortunately, has a more mild

professor of biomedical engineering, is leading the development of a system that uses multiple X-rays to create a three-dimensional image of how bones

reflective sensors mounted on the outside

form of OI. And it doesn’t seem to hold

of a patient’s foot to track movement and

her back much.

could help produce better shoes and braces.

Thanks to drug treatments that help

“Not only is there no error from skin

devices. By putting sensors on crutches,

strengthen her bones, she has had only

markers now, we’re actually seeing the

walkers and wheelchairs, Harris’ team

two recent fractures: She broke her arm

bones, we’re seeing the joints, we’re

has found that such devices put consid-

after falling off her bike and broke a verte-

erable stress on a patient’s upper body.

bra when she flipped an all-terrain vehicle.

experience when they use assistive

“They’re actually loading the upper extremities to high levels and coming

Or, as she puts it, “doing normal stuff.”

seeing the articulations — and we’re seeing them inside shoes, inside braces, inside the types of footwear that might be used to modify walking patterns,” Harris says. “That’s extremely exciting for us.” Marquette University


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