Kersh awarded grant to study effects of subchondroplasty on bones


Fatima Farha, MechSE Communications

Mariana Kersh, an assistant professor in MechSE, has been awarded a three-year grant from Zimmer Biomet, an international medical device manufacturer, to conduct research on the assessment of knee bone and cartilage after subchondroplasty procedures. 
Working with Dr. Richard Goding, an orthopedic surgeon and Director of Orthopedics at Christie Clinic, Kersh will look at how subchondroplasty affects the knee long-term after the procedure is completed—specifically, whether subchondroplasty helps to inhibit further degeneration of the cartilage, which leads to osteoarthritis. 
Subchondroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure to treat subchondral bone defects associated with bone marrow lesions. A bone-like, substitute material is injected into a patient’s bone – typically the knee – to mechanically strengthen it. The material has a hydroxy appetite base, commonly used as bone filler and bone substitute in orthopedic surgeries. Because the material has been used in many orthopedic surgeries, Kersh said it is known to be handled well by the body, but her research will focus on how it affects the bone’s mechanical competence.
To conduct their research, Kersh and her colleagues will take MRI scans of patients’ knees over a two-year period, both before and after the subchondroplasty—providing a robust collection of clinical outcomes. With this information, she hopes to understand the value of the procedure relative to patients’ pain. 
By understanding the long-term effects of subchondroplasty on bone and cartilage strength, and by understanding where the problems of osteoarthritis start, Kersh’s research could present other potential treatments for subchondral bone defects. 
She said that working on the applied side of engineering is something she has always been interested in.
“The power of bringing everyone together is that we can really make great strides in medicine and engineering,” Kersh said. “I’m happy to see that we can still engage with industry and that they see the value of having such great resources at the university.”
Kersh started her career in MechSE in August 2014 after a postdoc position at the University of Melbourne. She earned her PhD in materials science and her MS and BS in mechanical engineering, all from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has a BA in English from the University of Texas-Austin.