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Assessing changes in wrist biomechanics during ageing and optimal design of total wrist arthroplasty and assistive rehabilitation devices


Project Description

Training: The University of Liverpool has set up a Doctoral Training Network in Technologies for Healthy Ageing to train the next generation of physical scientists and engineers to develop novel technologies and devices to address the challenges faced by older people and our clinical colleagues who work with them. All students will undertake a specific training programme in conjunction with their research project and have the support of a cohort structure.

Research project: The human wrist is a highly complex anatomical joint. Its healthy functioning is crucial to normal hand performance, and our ability to successfully interact with and manipulate the environment. Ageing incurs musculoskeletal changes that directly impact on wrist joint function and subsequently our ability to carry out basic everyday tasks. Healthy function is inhibited further by age-related diseases and through fractures, which can be particular chronic in the elderly. In severe incidences total wrist arthroplasty (surgical replacement of the joint with prosthesis) is typically used in an effort to restore or preserve healthy wrist motion. However, we currently lack the basic understanding of wrist function needed to optimise the design and surgical placement of wrist prostheses, as well as to effectively support patients’ rehabilitation. This PhD project aims to: 1) identify the ideal position of the articular components of wrist prostheses to best restore normal wrist function in patients of varying age and demography, 2) develop a device for assisting rehabilitation of patients that underwent wrist arthroplasty. These aims will be pursued through the following approaches:

1. Study of the wrist range of motion: 3D printing technology will be used for creating different wrist-bone assemblies mimicking patients of varying age and demography. Similar 3D printed models featuring wrist prostheses will be manufactured as well. Their range of motion will be assessed via both OptiTrack motion tracking system and an IMU equipped glove. These data will create a starting point for more in-depth investigation that will be conducted via biplanar x-ray state-of-the-art image technology on cadavers with and without writs implants.
2. Development of a numerical model that is representative of the wrist assembly and that can inform orthopaedics on the best position/size/shape of the articular components of wrist prosthesis to be used of that specific patient.
3. Development of a prototype of a device for assisting rehabilitation of patients that underwent wrist arthroplasty. It is envisaged that soft robotics will be explored in this stage thanks to their compliant and intrinsically safe nature when interacting with the human tissues.

The ideal student would have a background in human anatomy, biomechanics and/or engineering and possess some skills in quantitative, mechanical and/or 3D digital techniques, but training will be provided in all techniques. The supervisory team includes experts in vertebrate anatomy, biomechanics, imaging and computer simulation, mechanical and materials engineering, and robotics. The studentship is highly cross-disciplinary and the student will work in the Evolutionary Morphology & Biomechanics Group (https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/ageing-and-chronic-disease/research-groups/evolutionary-biomechanics/about/) and the School of Engineering (https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/engineering/) at the University of Liverpool.

The ILCMS is fully committed to promoting gender equality in all activities. In recruitment, we emphasize the supportive nature of the working environment and the flexible family support that the University provides. The Institute holds a silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of on-going commitment to ensuring that the Athena SWAN principles are embedded in its activities and strategic initiatives.

For enquiries please contact Dr K Bates on

To apply: please send your CV and a covering letter to Luine McRae () with a copy to
Expected interview date/week in July either in person or virtually if necessary under the current conditions

Funding Notes

This studentship covers:
• University fees for 3 years at UK or EU postgraduate student rates (NOT Overseas), £4,407 for 2020 - 21
• Student stipend for 3.5 years at the recommended UKRI rate, £15,285 for 2020 – 21
• A total of £3500 research costs to cover the whole 3.5 year period of the study

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