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Vidt and Simon to begin project funded by Multidisciplinary Research Seed Grants program

February 9, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Meghan Vidt, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and Julianna Simon, assistant professor of acoustics, were recently awarded funding through the Penn State College of Engineering’s Multidisciplinary Research Seed Grants program.

"I am thrilled that our project has been selected as a recipient of a Multidisciplinary Research Seed Grant, as there were so many strong proposals in this year’s competition," said Vidt. "This project is exciting because it applies established techniques in an innovative way to address a highly prevalent injury."

Their project, titled "Focused ultrasound histotripsy as a novel therapeutic approach to tendon injury: an assessment of structural and mechanical properties," seeks to explore the utility of a mechanical form of ultrasound therapy called histotripsy to treat tendon injury. Vidt and Simon will examine how histotripsy injury compares histologically and mechanically to dry needling. This information will also be used in development of a finite element model that will allow further exploration of parameters and enable scaling to represent humans in future studies.

"This project is a long way from clinical implementation, but eventually, we hope that a patient with pain from chronic tendon injury can go to a physical therapist’s or doctor’s office, have an ultrasound combination imaging and therapeutic probe placed on the site of pain or injury and be treated in a matter of minutes," Simon explained. "We expect that adding ultrasound histotripsy to conventional physical therapy will speed the healing process and improve the integrity of the healing tendon, reducing the incidence of re-injury."

Vidt received her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from North Carolina State University. Her doctorate in biomedical engineering was completed at the Virginia Tech – Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. She joined Penn State in August 2017 as joint faculty in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the College of Medicine. Vidt’s research focuses on musculoskeletal biomechanics of the upper extremity, employing a comprehensive approach to assess upper limb mobility and function in various populations, including aging and musculoskeletal injury.

Simon joined Penn State faculty in January 2017 in the Graduate Program in Acoustics. She earned her bachelor's degree in bioengineering from Washington State University and her doctoral degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington. Her research focuses on controlled soft tissue fractionation, bubble-based ultrasonic imaging and pulsed ultrasound therapy for fracture healing.

"I became interested in using ultrasound for musculoskeletal injuries when my horse tore a ligament in her leg," said Simon. "As we were talking about possible treatments, an acoustic therapy called extracorporeal shock wave therapy was proposed. I began doing research on ultrasound and found that it can do more than just image different parts of the body – it can also be used as a therapeutic! This made me think – could the ultrasound pressure wave be used to speed healing and improve the integrity of healed tendon?"

Simon and Vidt first met at one of the Penn State New Faculty Workshops. "When I found out Dr. Vidt conducted research in tendons and knew of a particular clinical challenge – that of rotator cuff tendon tear – for which my idea of ultrasound histotripsy as a therapeutic could fit really well, we decided to figure out a means to collaborate. The seed grant opportunity came at just the right time to start talking and planning how we could work together to solve this real problem," said Simon. "Dr. Vidt has a great deal of expertise in biomechanics and modeling, with connections into the orthopaedic realm. For the project to advance beyond the basic research and have even a chance of clinical implementation, having someone with Dr. Vidt’s expertise is essential."

Vidt adds, "I am delighted to partner with Dr. Simon on this novel project, and I envision this study to be the start of a long-term collaboration between our labs. Once proven successful here, the possibilities for future clinical translation and impact on patient treatment paradigms is exciting and I am looking forward to getting started."


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  • Graduate Program in Acoustics welcomes Julianna Simon to its faculty

    UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Graduate Program in Acoustics is pleased to announce that Julianna Simon will join the program in January 2017 as assistant professor of acoustics.

    "The program's faculty and students are looking forward to having Dr. Simon as an integral part of our faculty," said Victor Sparrow, professor and director of acoustics. "She brings to Penn State immediate expertise in the area of medical ultrasound that has become increasingly important worldwide in recent years. Her research will lead to new and improved treatments for diseases and to methodologies for applying ultrasound both on earth and in space."

    Simon's research focuses on controlled soft tissue fractionation, bubble-based ultrasonic imaging and pulsed ultrasound therapy for fracture healing.

    Currently, she is a National Space Biomedical Research Institute First Award Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington (UW). She is investigating how the color-Doppler ultrasound twinkling artifact for kidney stone detection is influenced by the unique environment of space.

    Prior to her postdoctoral career at UW, Simon participated in biomechanics research in collaboration with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University.

    During her undergraduate career, she completed an internship at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, where she helped monitor pilot cognitive state with functional near-infrared spectroscopy.

    Simon serves as a reviewer for four journals: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control; the Association for Veterinary Teaching and Research Work's Research in Veterinary Science; Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology; and Sensors and Actuators A: Physical. She was an editor and contributing author for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute Society of Fellows newsletter from 2014 to 2015.

    Simon holds memberships in the Biomedical Engineering Society and the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), and has presented her research at five ASA national meetings. She earned her bachelor's degree in bioengineering from Washington State University and her doctoral degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington.

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