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MEMP - Thesis Defense - Katelyn Amanda Burkhart

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Understanding the Vertebral Fracture Risk in Astronauts

In spaceflight, the loss of mechanical loading has detrimental effects on the musculoskeletal system. These muscular changes will likely affect spinal loading, a key aspect of vertebral fracture risk, but no prior studies have examined how spinal loading is affected by long duration spaceflight. The effect of spaceflight on vertebral strength has not been determined, despite reports of significant vertebral trabecular bone loss in long-duration astronauts. Thus trunk muscle and vertebral bone changes and their impact on risk of injury following long-duration spaceflight remain unknown. This is of particular concern for NASA's planned Mars missions and return to Earth after prolonged deconditioning. Our lab has developed a musculoskeletal model of the thoracolumbar spine that has been validated for spinal loading, but has not yet been extended to maximal effort activities or full-body simulations. Thus, the overall goal of this work consisted of two main sections: 1) address the knowledge gap regarding spaceflight and post-flight recovery effects on trunk muscle properties, vertebral strength, compressive spine loading and vertebral fracture risk, and 2) extend our musculoskeletal modeling work into maximal effort simulations and create a full-body scaled model to investigate reproducibility of spine loading estimates using opto-electronic motion capture data.

Thesis Supervisor:
Mary L. Bouxsein, PhD
Director, Center for Advanced Orthopaedic Studies, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Harvard Medical School

Thesis Committee Chair:
Leia Stirling, PhD
Charles Stark Draper Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT
Associate Faculty, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, MIT

Thesis Readers:
Dennis Anderson, PhD
Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Harvard Medical School

Andrea Hanson, PhD
CNS/BMed/Sensorimotor (CBS) Portfolio Manager, Human Factors and Behavioral Performance Element, NASA Johnson Space Center

Date and Time: 
Wednesday, May 1, 2019 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm

MIT E25-119/121