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Thursday, December 29, 2016

3D Scanning and 3D Printing Reveal the Evolutionary Roots of Joint Pain.

A study in University of Oxford by researchers shows how evolution may be responsible for some painful and aggravating conditions many of us currently face, especially as we get older. The Oxford Orthopedic Evolutionary Group was formed by Clinical Lecturer Dr. Paul Monk, Zoology Professor Fritz Vollrath, and Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Science Dr. Jonathan Rees. The group’s research studies the evolutionary origins of human bones, how they turned into the skeletal structure we have now, and the ways in which they may be responsible for orthopedic problems today. According to the researchers recurring or chronic joint pain that seems to come from nowhere such as back problems and knee issues are everywhere, afflicting people seemingly without regard to size, diet or level of physical activity. The reason for this, according to the Oxford researchers, may go all the way back to when humans began walking on two legs – apparently our bodies didn’t adapt to it as well as they should have. Looking backwards involved taking CT scans of 224 ancient bone specimens located at the University of Oxford, London’s Natural History Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Those scans, which were taken not only from humans and hominids but primates, dinosaurs and other animals, were used to create a library of 3D models, which the researchers studied and compared to track the changes in the shapes and structures of single bones over the course of millions of years. One thing that they discovered was that the “neck” of the human thigh bone appears to have started growing thicker around the time humans started standing on two legs, which makes sense as the thigh bones would need to adapt to support the extra weight. Unfortunately, the thicker the femoral neck bone, the likelier it is that arthritis will develop – a good explanation for why so many adults suffer from hip pain. If the human body continues to evolve in the same trajectory as it has for millions of years, the femoral neck bone will continue to get thicker, leading to more cases of arthritis. The researchers used the 3D models to 3D print the “skeleton of the future,” using a mathematical algorithm to predict how human bones will continue to change shape, and if their predictions are correct, it’s not just the hips that will develop worsening problems. The study also found that a gap in the shoulder, which allows tendons and blood vessels to pass through, has been growing narrower over time, which would account for the pain that some people have when they lift their arms over their heads. source