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Into the Lab: Research at NYCC

by on November 2, 2012
Biodex machine in an NYCC biomechanics lab

Dr. Koo calibrates data from a completed muscle ultrasound.

On Fridays class is over for first trimester students by noon, leaving us with an afternoon for studying, getting some errands done, or making a long trip to visit family, friends, or significant others for the weekend. Today, though, when I finished with my Cell and Tissue Biology lab I headed over to the Biodynamics Lab, our campus’ dedicated research building, to become a subject in an ongoing research project.

For this study, lead researcher Terry K.K. Koo, PhD, really only needed to borrow my leg. After a few measurements of my foot, leg and build, I took a seat with one leg thoroughly braced to prevent movement, and allowed Dr. Koo and his assistant to strap my foot to a mechanized pedal which would allow them to flex and extend the foot very precisely. As they worked to fine-tune the settings for my particular leg shape, Dr. Koo explained the context of the study.

Today they would be using a high-frequency ultrasound technique known as shear wave elastography to visualize the tautness of muscle fibers in my lower leg as my foot moved through its range of motion. A typical “see-the-baby” ultrasound functions at 30-40 kilohertz, while this apparatus would scan me at 20,000 kilohertz, producing a detailed image of a cross-section of my shin. The technique would be used to quantify the elasticity of scanned tissues and detect the presence of any particularly taut bands of muscle or tender trigger points. In a second stage of the project- postponed to a later date due to this week’s hurricane- another doctor would treat any taut bands or trigger points using Nimmo technique, a soft-tissue treatment employed by many chiropractors, then reevaluate the muscle elasticity.

The study is a heartening reminder of the ongoing research throughout the medical world, working to ensure that patients are receiving the safest, most effective treatments.

When research isn’t enough

The process of reevaluating treatments does not end with writing the conclusion of a study, however. A June 2012 TED Talk gives a brief overview of an ongoing problem with research in the medical world: getting the word out.

In summary, Ben Goldacre tells of the phenomenon of publication bias, and its devastating effects on human knowledge- and health. He says that positive results, showing that a course of treatment does have an effect, are TWICE as likely to be published as negative results, showing no effect or inconclusive data. To illustrate the point, Goldacre mentions a single study that was published showing future-seeing abilities in undergraduate students. Several follow-up studies showing no such data were refused from publication. Who wants to read about powers humans don’t have? And similarly, who wants to read about what drugs cannot do?

This should not be seen as a direct assault on medicine, however, but a need for increased flow of good research results and data.  Incomplete data, selective publishing, and a lack of good scientific communication serve as a detriment to every field. In chiropractic, it could affect what techniques doctors use, what additional therapies students learn, which clinicians we refer patients to, and what advice we give our patients.

Ensuring information flow

Ultrasound view of the tibialis anterior

The tibialis anterior (shin) as viewed using shear wave elastography, a type of ultrasound that illuminates regions of tight muscle. Red indicates more taut areas.

The data gathered in the Biodynamics Lab today will not be published for quite some time, as the study itself is not even finished. But for me it is always interesting to find out little bits of data about the grand clinical trial which is my life. One unique feature of my scan was a particularly high level of pressure at the surface of the muscle as it flexed. This appeared to be a result of muscle pushing against a very well-developed fascia, the membrane wrapping the muscle. However, to learn more specifics we will have to wait for publication.

At NYCC the research department registers all clinical trials with ClinicalTrials.gov, a US federal effort to catalog any data related to human trials. This creates accountability and makes steps toward comprehensive data for health interventions. A detailed procedure for study review and reporting ensures validity in all studies in the NYCC Research Department, whether their findings are significant or not. And a wealth of published studies originating in this lab attests to the value of the research completed here.

Find out about topics of research at NYCC, study funding and recent publications here: http://www.nycc.edu/AcademicPrograms_Research.htm

This study is still looking for more subjects! If you are interested in this study or others, you can contact Anne Smith, Research Office Manager, by email or at 315 568-3868.

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