Designing a minimally invasive, highly effective treatment for torn meniscus

Team Meniscus including Paige Stitzel, Lindsay Browning, and Rachel Kelly and Professor Lawrence Bonassar

Team Members:

Page StitzelPaige Stitzel– The Cornell BME M.Eng. program offered a great opportunity to combine my education in physics with my passion for biology, allowing me to expand my knowledge and expertise and be able to enter this industry once completed.

 

Lindsay BrowningLindsay Browning– I chose Cornell for my undergraduate degree because it has a unique combination of opportunities in engineering, athletics, and the military. The people are amazing and became my family, so it only made sense to continue my education here in the form of an M.Eng. I like the program because it is an intensive, one-year program that offers experiences in industry and research that you don’t often find in undergraduate experience.

Rachel KellyRachel Kelly– My undergraduate degree felt like it left gaps in my understanding of biomedical engineering. Cornell offered a way to fill the holes and gain practical experience, as well as the opportunity to attend in-person classes after being online for nearly two years.

 

Tell us about your project and why it's important?

Approximately one million surgical procedures are performed each year in the U.S. to repair torn meniscus tissue. Current solutions include partial or total meniscectomy (removal of meniscus) or attempting to suture the meniscus back together. Unfortunately, in most cases, surgeons will resect damaged tissues rather than attempt to repair them, leading to potential cartilage damage and osteoarthritis. This project aims to develop a tissue fusion system that uses radiofrequency (RF) energy to repair partial tears of the meniscus. Our goal is to provide a minimally invasive and highly effective RF-based treatment for torn meniscus by developing testing protocols and assessing the optimal parameters of RF to maximize the mechanical benefit and minimize cell damage to the meniscus. Most meniscus tears occur due to sports-related injuries, which would be the largest population that this technology would serve.
 
Did you work with any partners and what was that like?

We worked directly with a sponsor company composed of many different individuals. The sponsor provided insight and feedback as we worked together to developed a prototype. We gained  a lot of direct industry experience through this process, and this sponsor will continue to develop this project built upon our research this year. Meinig School professors Dr. Bonassar and Dr. de Faria were advisors on the project, helping us during the development and assisting us with gathering all technology that was needed. We were able to run our ideas by them and present our gathered data for their feedback on further improvements.

What have you learned or what has surprised you about this project or your Cornell experience?

We learned that project requirements can change very quickly and that teams need to be equipped for quick changes in order to keep up with sponsor requirements. Experiencing these changes firsthand helped us develop the skills to adapt, thus better preparing us for when we enter the biomedical engineering industry.

What’s the next step/ future direction for your project?

While all three of us are graduating, we do have another student member of our team that will be continuing this project. She will build upon our research into meniscus characterization and design and develop a device prototype to implement the correct amount of power to weld the meniscus.

Fun fact/story about your team and or project story?

Our team worked really well together throughout the entirety of this project. We became really close and had fun. We were quite unique because we each had something different to contribute to the project. For example, Lindsay had more experience in Dr. Bonassar’s lab, so she would typically handle tissue samples; Rachel was very skilled in analyzing data and bringing forth some helpful programs/software to utilize; and Paige had a background in physics, so she was able to help more with the circuitry aspect of the project. Therefore, we were all able to recognize each other's strengths very quickly in the beginning and utilized these to create roles for ourselves within the project, thus being able to work very effectively together.

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