The Universitaet Ulm (UUlm) is the youngest university in Baden-Württemberg, which was founded in 1967 as university for medicine and natural sciences. The subject spectrum has been expanded considerably since then. In recent years, it has been ranked continuously among the world’s top 15 young universities and as one of the best in Germany (Times Higher Education “150 below 50”); in 2017 it ranked among the top 10 worldwide. More than 10,600 students are enrolled in the four faculties ‘Engineering, Computer Science and Psychology’, ‘Mathematics and Economics’, ‘Medicine’ and ‘Natural Sciences’. UUlm is the centre of and driving force behind the Science City of Ulm, a dynamically growing research environment including hospitals, technology companies and other institutions. The University’s research foci comprise life sciences and medicine, bio-, nano- and energy materials, financial services and their mathematical methods, as well as information, communication and quantum technologies.
The Institute of Orthopaedic Research and Biomechanics (Director: Prof. Dr. Anita Ignatius) at the UUlm has more than 30 years expertise in interdisciplinary research with the general purpose to improve the treatment of patients with injuries or disorders of the locomotion system. The institute covers a broad area in musculoskeletal research. 42 interdisciplinary staff members are working on biomaterials and tissue engineering, cell biology, fracture healing, tissue regeneration and joint/ spine biomechanics. The institute has been involved in a large number of projects with funding from industrial, national and European sources. The spine research group of the Institute of Orthopaedic Research and Biomechanics at UUlm has a long and consolidated experience in in vivo and in vitro studies, animal experiments, finite-element modelling, as well as cell biomechanics and tissue engineering. A wide range of innovative interdisciplinary methods are continuously developed and used to address many research questions concerning the behaviour of the healthy spine, degeneration, deformities, trauma and implantable devices. Since more than 30 years they cooperate with industry in developing a huge variety of implants and approaches to treat spinal problems. The extensive biomechanics expertise and state of the art infrastructure of UUlm will enable integration of biomechanics in the evaluation of the efficacy of the preclinical studies conducted within the iPSpine project.
Prof. Hans-Joachim Wilke is Professor for Biomechanics at UUlm. He is Co-Director of the Institute for Orthopaedic Research and Biomechanics and head of the spine research. Prof. Wilke is a mechanical engineer and has received his Ph.D. in biomechanics. Prof. Wilke’s group has developed techniques to determine three-dimensional motions in joints and spinal motion segments and spinal load in vivo during daily activities, devices to record pressure distribution in discs, and strains in soft and hard tissue structures. They are familiar with mathematical models, in particular on nutrition of the intervertebral disc. Recently, his group developed a dynamic spine tester with 6 degree of freedom to study the mechanism of disc failure which they follow with high resolution MRI. The group is also experienced in in vivo experiments (mostly sheep) to study degeneration and treatment of different spinal structures (disc, facet joints, vertebrae).
Dr Cornelia Neidlinger-Wilke is a senior scientist and biologist at the Institute of Orthopaedic Research and Biomechanics, UUlm, Germany. She started her scientific career in fracture healing, osteoporosis research and bone cell mechanobiology. In 2001, she entered the field of intervertebral disc research where she focussed on disc mechanobiology, disc degeneration and disc tissue engineering at the cellular and organ culture level with consideration of the degenerative and pro-inflammatory environment of the disc. Her ongoing research work aims to contribute to an improved understanding of the disc degenerative pathway and regenerative treatment strategies. She has also co-founded the start-up company (and iPSpine partner) Spineserv GmbH & Co. KG, Ulm Germany, that provides standard testing procedures (ISO/ASTM) for mechanical testing of orthopaedic and dental implants, implant materials and surgical instruments as an accredited laboratory for physical and chemical testing of medical devices. Dr. Neidlinger-Wilke is the quality management representative of this company .
Laura Zengerle is a PhD student at the Institute of Orthopaedic Research and Biomechanics, UUlm, Germany. She holds a Double Master’s Degree in Mechatronics Engineering awarded by the Ilmenau University of Technology and the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru with specialization on robotics and bionically inspired mechatronic devices. Hence, her expertise lies in developing new test methods and machines in order to answer biomechanical questions in the field of spine research during her PhD program. Using those novel test methods for experimental in vitro studies, she investigates basic biomechanics of the spine as well as new surgical approaches and applications of innovative implants with focus on the lumbar spine.
Jan Ulrich Jansen is a PhD student at the Institute of Orthopaedic Research and Biomechanics, UUlm, Germany. He holds a Master’s degree in Medical Technology from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technical University of Munich (TUM).
His expertise lies in the development of new testing methods and machines to answer biomechanical questions in the field of spine research. With these new test methods, degenerative changes in the intervertebral disc (e.g. bovine tail discs) can be artificially mimicked, enabling comprehensive experimental in vitro studies that also consider the biological setting. This can be used to biomechanically assess new regenerative therapies for the intervertebral disc.