Newswise — Guy Genin, PhD, has been named a 2014 Global Scholars Fellow at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

The award will allow Genin, professor of mechanical engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, to conduct research with Changqing Chen, PhD, professor of engineering and director of Tsinghua’s Institute for Solid Mechanics. The team will study how engineers can help older adults make decisions about orthopedic surgeries involving rotator cuff repair.

Rotator cuff tears are among the most common orthopedic injuries among adults in the United States, due to wear and tear or the effects of age. With a 94 percent failure rate for surgical repairs of large tears in older patients, the injury is a major cause of pain and disability. Genin and Stavros Thomopoulos, PhD, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, are studying this issue with a five-year, $3.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Results of their research could lead to the engineering of new tissues that could enhance cuff repair.

“A question that has perplexed Stavros and me for years is why so many elderly patients elect to have a surgery that has such a high failure rate,” Genin says. “Would information that engineers could provide affect these decisions, and could we identify metrics that would help predict outcomes?”

At the core of the question is how aspects of aging tissue that can be measured in the clinic relate to toughness, Genin says.

“Changqing Chen is recognized internationally for his work in relating the structure of a tissue to its toughness, and, with the growing effects of the one-child policy, the problem of decisions about surgeries for the elderly is even more pressing in China than it is the U.S.,” Genin says. “This collaboration was a perfect fit.”

Chen is known globally for pioneering work in micro- and nano-mechanics, mechanics of electromagnetic solids, and mechanical behavior of cellular materials and structures ranging from metallic foams to bone. He was recipient of the Chinese National Science Foundation’s National Outstanding Young Investigator Award for this work.

The collaboration led Genin and Chen to Nancy Morrow-Howell, PhD, the Bettie Bofinger Brown Distinguished Professor of Social Policy at the Brown School and director of the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging, a center in the Washington University Institute for Public Health. The Friedman Center partially funded their pilot project through the Global Aging Initiative, a university effort to promote cross-national aging research in partnership with the McDonnell International Scholars Academy. The Tsinghua Global Scholars program funded the remainder.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to partner with Washington University’s Global Aging Initiative, which we hope will provide a platform for studying these issues in the context of broader questions about quality of life for the elderly,” Chen says.

As a Tsinghua Global Scholars Fellow, Genin will collaborate with Chen at Tsinghua this summer and also deliver a series of academic lectures. The Tsinghua Global Scholars Fellowship program is designed to attract renowned international scholars to Tsinghua University with the goal to promote research in China, links senior Tsinghua faculty with foreign collaborators through defined, peer-reviewed research proposals.

Tsinghua University is one of the 28 partner universities of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy at Washington University in St. Louis. The McDonnell Academy currently supports nine graduate and professional degree students who are graduates of Tsinghua University. These McDonnell Academy Scholars are pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees in disciplines including engineering, science, architecture and social work.

Genin will be in residence at the Center for Nano and Micromechanics at Tsinghua this summer. He and Chen are scheduled to share their work at the McDonnell Academy 5th International Symposium in October.


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