Slowing—even preventing—a crippling disease
Megan Killian wants to help individuals combat developing osteoarthritis, the degenerative joint disease, after experiencing a traumatic ACL tear.
“We are looking at the biomechanics of the meniscus,” says the PhD student in biomedical engineering. “Meniscus is a rubber-like material that plays a major role in the health and mobility of the knee.”
Killian’s work, under the guidance of Tammy Haut Donahue, associate professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics, focuses on traumatically induced tears—rather than surgical cuts—of the meniscus and seeks to understand the degeneration that results in osteoarthritis. She says such an injury greatly mimics what is routinely seen in skiing accidents.
“I want to develop a way, after the tear, to delay the inevitable osteoarthritis, hopefully with homeopathic physical therapy instead of with pharmaceuticals or surgical removal of the meniscus,” she says.
On the road, Killian has presented the changes in glycosaminoglycan coverage, the molecules responsible for the compressive behavior of the meniscus, at the Orthopedic Research Society, and she has also been published in the Journal of Surgical Research.
Killian did her undergraduate work at Tech and got her master’s in health and human development and education at Montana State, which, like Michigan Tech, is in ski country. But she wasn’t worried about her own ACL.
“I do cross-country, not downhill,” she says. “I'd rather go uphill than downhill when I'm on two planks.”