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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UMass Researchers Developing Wearable System for Assessing Knee Movement

Dr. Katherine Boyer, associate professor of kinesiology in the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, and assistant professor Dr. Sunghoon “Ivan” Lee of the UMass Amherst College of Information and Computing Sciences recently received a National Institutes of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering Trailblazer Award to support their collaboration in developing and validating an integrated mobile health (mHealth) system for assessing the biomechanics of movement associated with knee osteoarthritis symptoms.

Their mHealth system will also be useful in monitoring patients’ activities as they go about their daily routines in home and community settings, they say. Drs. Boyer and Lee hope to learn more about pain, quality of life, rehabilitation progression and clinical outcomes to support personalized interventions for people with knee osteoarthritis, one of the leading causes of disability among adults living independently.

The three-year, $276,000 award will allow Drs. Boyer and Lee to validate their new wearable sensors to monitor important biomechanical parameters in knee arthritis based on technologies available at the university’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences’ Center for Personalized Health Monitoring. Dr. Boyer says they also hope to provide clinicians with important biomechanical and activity information needed to personalize treatments and limit disease progression.

The technology they propose will build upon a new flexible wearable sensor developed by Dr. Lee, whose research focuses on wearable sensor development and data analytic methods for understanding human movements. He says their sensors provide an accurate, robust, low-cost and power-efficient means to monitor day-to-day lower-limb movements using the flexible sensor, which can measure joint motion through an indirect measure of skin stretch and ground reaction forces using a set of sensors on shoe insoles.

Drs. Boyer and Lee explain that there are limits in opportunities for clinical translation to improve rehabilitation and overall care of patients with osteoarthritis in the knee because “at this time no engineering solution exists for long-term monitoring of both biomechanical variables and patient physical activity behaviors relevant to knee osteoarthritis in an efficient, reliable and accurate manner.”