Spine Biomechanics

Chronic low back pain is a significant public health problem in industrialized society. The intact spine carries the upper body and external loads, allows motion in a physiological range and protects the spinal cord. These different demands necessitate a high degree of complexity with various sources for disorders and pain. The Julius Wolff Institute conducts research in order to counter pain causes and to further optimize the pain treatment.

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Form and funktion analyses in sheep and cattle

Sheep and cattle are among the most widely used (large) animal species in spinal in vivo and in vitro research. In both animal models, a variety of surgical techniques are being tested, the success of which largely depends on the local mechanical loads. However, as mechanics determines the success or failure of each new treatment strategy, the macroscopic shape and motion of the spine in everyday life are of crucial importance. For both species, however, the physiological extent of back shape and motion is still unknown. To characterize the natural motion sequences of animals, it is necessary not to disturb the animals during the examinations, but rather to measure in a relaxed condition in the animals´ familiar environment. Only the careful recording of the animals´ back shape and motion in their natural environment for long periods allows reliable conclusions to be drawn with regard to realistic spinal loads.

For the first time, we measure the physiological 3D back shape and motion of sheep and cattle under realistic conditions and compare these measurements with our previous measurements on humans

Only the comparison of both databases will enable us to make specific statements regarding the validity and the responsible use of animals in preclinical spinal research and to scientifically discuss, whether and to what extent the use of quadrupeds as models for humans is legitimate in spine research. Next to the characterization of the back shape of healthy animals, it is to be investigated whether different complaints of the animals may cause significant changes in the back shape or motion. For this purpose, cattle and sheep will be used, that are at present immediately prior, during or after their treatment by the local veterinarian. Up to date, only the assessment of the static back shape has found its way into numerous subjective pain scales in veterinary medicine. Our measurements may contribute in a meaningful way to establish the back shape as an objective measure for pain indication in sheep and cattle.