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Spine Robotics Testing

'Bender', the Spine Research Laboratory's (SRL) robotic biomechanics tester.

Cutting-edge robotic tests to study spine biomechanics — also called “robo-mechanics” — represent the next frontier in spine research. Cleveland Clinic Spine Research Laboratory (SRL) has completed its first spine robo-mechanics studies with “Bender,” an in-house spine-testing robot.

While traditional spine research test protocols have been limited to use of cables and pulleys to bend the spine (quasi-static test) and simplistic push-pull or twist tests to measure the response of passive spine structures (bones, ligaments, discs) only, Bender allows SRL to conduct six-degree-of-freedom, in vitro spine testing in any conceivable orientation, position or load.

These tests allow for precise characterization of the intact, injured and stabilized spine while providing groundbreaking insights into the theoretical muscular and neural responses of the in vivo spine.

Spins at 615 Degrees per Second

Robots like Bender have a long history in industrial settings such as automotive assembly and precision welding and painting, as well as in modern amusement park rides and movies. Robots are still regarded as novelties in medical research. At the SRL in Cleveland Clinic’s Lutheran Hospital, Bender elevates existing spine research capabilities.

The robot allows SRL researchers as well as Center for Spine Health and Department of Neurosurgery staff, fellows and residents to add measurements of active (muscle) and neural (central nervous system) spine responses to the traditionally measured passive spine responses.

To facilitate these measurements, Bender can manipulate a spine with 0.1 mm accuracy — the thickness of a human hair — and loads as light as a few grams.

Running at full capacity, Bender can move 16 kilograms (35 pounds) at speeds up to 14 feet per second and twist or spin up to 615 degrees per second. Additionally, SRL’s robo-mechanics testing is enhanced through use of a technically advanced Optotrak Certus three-dimensional infrared motion tracking system.

For more information on the Spine Research Laboratory’s robo-mechanical studies, contact Dr. Thomas Mroz at 216.445.9232.