Cover story: Marghoub’s skull growth research
UCL Mechanical Engineering PhD Arsalan Marghoub (pictured with Dr Mehran Moazen (R) below) tells us about his research into the biomechanics of bone growth. His new paper features on the March 2018 cover of the Journal of Anatomy.
You have a cover on the Journal of Anatomy, how do you feel about that?
It’s simply the icing on the cake! This is one of the best ways to make readers of the journal want to know more about my work.
Could you describe what we are seeing in that striking cover image?
We can see the distance plots showing the mouse skull growth at 3 days, 7 days, 10 days, 14 days and 20 days of age. They are highlighting the relative size differences between each skull and the skull after 20 days. The green areas have less difference and the red regions have a higher difference.
What applications do you foresee for the research you are doing?
I am focused on understanding the biomechanics of skull growth at the early stages of development after birth.
At birth, the skull consists of several bones joined at their edges by soft tissues (sutures). These sutures gradually turn to bone and their main role is to maintain the natural shape of skull. Premature fusion of the sutures leads to a medical condition called Craniosynostosis. Research to understand the genetic basis and clinical course for this condition has led to the development of various animal models. However, little is known about the biomechanical aspects of the situation.
Our current modelling approach, based on a mouse model, has the potential to be translated to human skull growth. This approach can improve our understanding of the different reconstruction methods used to clinically manage the different forms of Craniosynostosis and, in the long term, possibly reduce the number of re-operations in children with this condition, enhancing their quality of life.
You studied mechanical engineering at undergraduate level back in Iran. What stoked your interest in biomechanical engineering?
I have always looked at the human body as a complicated machine, and what better way to learn more about it than biomechanics? Not only the human body but also all living things; from a single cell, to insects, to giant whales. All of these have lots of things to teach us, to help us design our machines in a more sustainable manner!
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