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La nueva tecnología puede manchar tensiones minúsculas en tejidos finos del cuerpo antes de que sucedan lesiones

por Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | August 29, 2014
Stavros Thomopoulos
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have created a technology that uses two algorithms to identify the weak spots in tendons, muscles and bone that are likely to tear or break. The idea is that the technology can catch minor strains before they turn into big ruptures.

One of the algorithms is called Direct Deformation Estimation (DDE), which tracks the strains, and the other algorithm, called Strain Inference with Measure of Probable Local Elevation (SIMPLE), goes a step further by trying to find the localized areas of weakness. The technology is essentially software on a computer that uses either high-quality video or a set of images generated from imaging technologies.

However, the current imaging technologies including MR and ultrasound don't have the level of clarity and resolution that is needed to allow this technology to be used clinically. "When you're using these techniques to measure how a tissue stretches, if there's all of this speckle noise around the image it's hard to pick out what is real tissue versus noise," Stavros Thomopoulos, senior investigator and professor of orthopaedic surgery at the university, told DOTmed News.

The older method of tracking strains — texture correlation — is not as good as the new technology at finding and tracking localized strains as the material stretches. One of the two new algorithms is 1,000 times more accurate than texture correlation at quantifying very large stretches near tiny cracks.

The researchers have conducted a number of experiments with the technology using stretchy polymer, plastic wrap and collagen-based materials. For one of the experiments, they sprayed a pattern of dots on plastic wrap and when they stretched it, it caused tears. The new technology was able to successfully find the places where the tears were starting to form and track them as they extended.

Once the imaging technologies get up to speed, the next step is to use the technology on human patients. Thomopoulos wants to find out why some surgeries that repair the shoulder's rotator cuff injuries aren't successful and he ultimately wants to use the algorithms to increase the likelihood that the tissue will heal after surgery.

That might not be too far off since there are a few "cutting edge" imaging technologies that are expected to shift into clinical use soon that will improve the image resolution and clarity, said Thomopoulos. Additionally, the current imaging technology is improving every day.

The researchers are also working on improving the software because looking at a 2-D image of something that is 3-D can cause problems. They're currently expanding the code to create a 3-D version of the software to solve that.

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