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Detection and Diagnosis of Mobility Impairment via Cortical and Trabecular Bone Properties to Aid in the Identification of Human Remains in a Medicolegal Context

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Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2019, $150,000)

Recognizing and diagnosing mobility impairment from human skeletal remains has significant implications for forensic anthropology and direct application to rescuing and restoring crime victims. Vulnerable populations, such as persons with physical disabilities, are often those most subject to violent crimes, and thus more likely to show up in the forensic context.

Additionally, as more veterans return with ambulatory disabilities there is an increasing probability of disabled veterans becoming victims of homicide. As bone is a dynamic tissue that responds to changes in loading regime, by increasing (due to high loads) or decreasing (due to disuse) in mass and changing in architecture, a relationship exists between mechanical usage and bone mass, size, and geometry. Reduced mobility and long-term immobility results in diminished muscular stress and normal weight bearing on the lower limb bones; therefore, reduced ambulatory ability is reflected in the structure of these bones.

The purpose of this study is to investigate differences in the response of bone to childhood and adult onset mobility impairment. Specifically, this project will use micro-computed tomography to obtain images of the internal bone structure of the joints and shafts of the femur and humerus. To gain a better and more thorough understanding of the skeletal signal of mobility impairment, the researcher plans to analyze the trabecular bone structure (i.e., volume, thickness, and orientation of the bone struts) in the joints of the limbs and cortical bone cross-sectional properties (i.e., bone area, porosity, shape, and strength) of long bone shafts in individuals mobility impaired at various times and with varying causes. The primary goal is to parse out differences in onset, duration, and, if possible, type of mobility impairment. Furthermore, as the signature of mobility impairment, and in particular the decrease in bone mass and increase in porosity, is very similar to that seen due to aging, the researcher plans to investigate how the two processes differ and how to successfully determine biological signs of aging from those due to mobility impairment and limb disuse.

Gaining a better understanding of bone functional adaptation associated with disuse has direct application for detecting and diagnosing mobility impairment, distinguishing the timing (onset) of the impairment, and differentiating it from aging processes, which will significantly contribute to matching unidentified remains with missing persons and eventual identification.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14). ca/ncf

Date Created: September 13, 2019