A longtime scuba diver, Meiners is a professor of physics and biophysics at the University of Michigan. His work will involve compressing and rapidly decompressing spinal cord tissue inside magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to induce bubble formation and then identifying tissue damage that may arise. The goal of these experiments is to test the hypothesis that the growing bubbles do not just elastically deform but mechanically tear the spinal cord tissue, leading to damage that cannot be resolved by treatments that focus on bubble dissolution alone.
The data will be interpreted in elastic and fracture models and may be used to improve recompression treatment for decompression sickness (DCS) in the spinal cord. Greater knowledge of the mechanisms at play in spinal cord DCS could alter our understanding of the condition and introduce new possibilities for future treatment and prevention.
"We know high pressure oxygen is useful in healing injured tissue; our hypothesis is that there's more to it," said Meiners. "Putting damaged tissue under pressure may be similar to compressing a wound and stitching it back together. We think this could even have implications for traumatic spinal cord injuries in general."
"This research project is challenging in both its scale and aim, and it targets something very important to divers," said Dr. Petar Denoble, DAN vice president of mission. "This grant was designed to make projects like this possible and to support the next generation of researchers who can continue Dr. Hamilton's legacy and make diving safer for all."
The DAN/R.W. Hamilton Dive Medicine Research Grant is a year-long US$10,000 grant that supports new or ongoing research projects in the prevention and/or treatment of decompression sickness.
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