Grant awarded to investigate the role of soft tissues in cranial biomechanics

Professor Michael Fagan

Researchers investigating cranial biomechanics have received grant funding for the next phase of their work.

The research, led by Professor Michael Fagan, will culminate in what will be the most complex and complete functional head models ever produced.

The results will impact our understanding of cranial function generally and the role of the cranial vault in humans and other animals.

The classic image of a skull is that of a dry bony shell with empty cavities that once contained soft tissues. Similarly, biomechanical investigations of skulls have tended to focus on the bone and its response to stresses generated during feeding, for both humans and animals.

However, soft tissues such as the brain and eyes develop first, becoming enclosed by fibrous capsules within which the bony sections of the skull develop and are maintained and shaped.

Using anatomically-accurate working computer models of animal and human skulls, the aim is to clarify and quantify the role played by these apparently inert soft tissues in skull biomechanics.

The research, led by the University of Hull, is a continuation of a long-term collaboration with colleagues in University College London with £764k funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council for this phase of the work.

It will have long term clinical applications in the treatment of a number of congenital conditions such as craniosynostosis (a rare type of birth defect that affects the growth of a baby’s skull), hemifacial microsomia (a condition in which the lower half of one side of the face is underdeveloped and does not grow normally), and in reconstructive and plastic surgery.

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