Compliant mechanisms are jointless, elastic structures that use flexibility to create movement. Examples include tweezers, fingernail clippers or a bow-and-arrow. Howell is a leading expert in compliant mechanism research.
"To mimic the response of the spine is very difficult because of the constrained space and the sophistication of the spine and its parts," Howell said. "A compliant mechanism is more human-like, more natural, and the one we've created behaves like a healthy disc."
Under Howell's and Bowden's tutelage, BYU student-engineers built prototypes, machine tested the disc and then tested the device in cadaveric spines. The test results show the artificial replacement disc behaves similarly to a healthy human disc.
"Putting it in a cadaver and having it do what we engineered it do was really rewarding," Howell said. "It has a lot of promise for eventually making a difference in a lot of people's lives."
Halverson, who was lead author on the International Journal of Spine Surgery study, has since earned his Ph.D. from BYU and taken a position at Crocker Spinal Technologies, which will likely begin international sales distribution as early as next year.
"Fusion, which is the current standard of care for back pain, leaves a lot to be desired," said Hawkes, president of Crocker Spinal Technologies. "Disc replacement is an emerging alternative to fusion that has the potential to make a significant difference in the lives of millions.
"BYU's innovation is a radical step forward in the advancement of disc replacement technology. It is exciting to be a part of this effort and a delight to work with such talented, wonderful people," he said.
|Contact: Todd Hollingshead|
Brigham Young University