By Shira SpringerGlobe Staff November 08, 2014
Nearly three decades ago, a man on crutches changed the course of Dr. Martha Murray’s life. The two met at a party at Stanford University, where Murray was a graduate student in engineering. They talked about the man’s recent anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, tear. When he told Murray his reconstruction surgery would require a tendon graft and holes drilled into his thighbone and shinbone, she was shocked.
Murray wondered why surgeons couldn’t simply sew the two ends of the torn ligament back together and let it heal. The question nagged at her, led her to the university’s medical library for research, and, ultimately, resulted in a switch from engineering to medical school. Ever since, Murray has studied ACL tears and sought ways to help the ligament heal without grafts or holes drilled into bones. The result has been a sponge scaffold now ready for testing in human knees.
If all goes as hoped with human trials, the sponge scaffold could give athletes new, less invasive options for ACL repairs, particularly the young athletes Murray sees at her Boston Children’s Hospital practice where she works in the Division of Sports Medicine. Today, ACL tears are one of the most common knee injuries, especially among basketball and soccer players. Every year, approximately 400,000 people tear their ACLs in the United States. And women have a two to six times higher risk of suffering an ACL injury than males participating in the same sport.
That means a lot of patients could potentially benefit from Murray’s work. She discussed what it took to go from engineering student to designing structures that help ACLs heal themselves and what she hopes the future holds.
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