Physicians, engineers team up to study osteopathic treatments

November 02, 2010

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A multidisciplinary team of Michigan State University researchers has been awarded $4.2 million to develop accurate clinical research tools for studying osteopathic manipulative medicine, a hands-on approach to the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders.

Using a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health, principal investigator Jacek Cholewicki of the College of Osteopathic Medicine is leading a team to research OMM, which focuses on improving patient function and mobility. What is unique is the team's use of systems science, a branch of engineering that studies complex systems in a way that not only includes their parts but also how the parts interact to affect the entire system.

"We need to apply well-established engineering concepts to develop objective tools that will allow for the rigorous study of OMM," said Cholewicki, who serves as a co-director of MSU's Center for Orthopedic Research at Ingham Regional Orthopedic Hospital in Lansing.

"While this form of osteopathic treatment is popular, its underlying physiological mechanisms are unknown," he added. "What does the evidence support? How can we optimize treatments and make better patient selection? Those are key questions."

Applying engineering concepts and systems science to osteopathic treatments provides an excellent framework for investigating the musculoskeletal system's performance, said Jongeun Choi of the College of Engineering.

"The challenge is to develop methods that can measure changes in the body, are accurate and are safe when applied on patients," added engineering professor Clark Radcliffe.

MSU represents a unique environment for such research, said Peter Reeves of the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

"We have a major research university housing the nation's leading osteopathic college with extensive resources in engineering and in complementary/alternative medicine," he said. "Additionally, the aggressive research agenda of Osteopathic Dean William Strampel and the partnership with Ingham Regional Orthopedic Hospital have provided an ideal environment for this type of research."

The NIH grant will allow MSU to tackle three projects:
Other researchers on the project include Lisa DeStefano, Tim Francisco and Jacob Rowan from the College of Osteopathic Medicine. For more information on MSU's Center for Orthopedic Research, go to

Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

Michigan State University

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