Dawn M. Elliott, Ph.D.
Director of Biomedical Engineering
Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering, 1999, Duke University
M.S. Engineering Mechanics, 1995, University of Cincinnati
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, 1988, University of Michigan
AREAS OF EXPERTISE
Biomechanics of collagenous soft tissues
Intervertebral disc function, degeneration, restoration
AREAS OF SPECIAL INTEREST
Dr. Elliott studies the biomechanical function of orthopaedic soft tissues in health, aging, degeneration, injury and healing. Her primary focus is the intervertebral disc, which supports and distributes loads and permits motions of the spine. She also studies other tissues including tendon, ligament, meniscus, and articular cartilage.
With age, the intervertebral disc undergoes progressive and irreversible degenerative changes that often lead to low back pain. Surgical treatment options are extremely limited and do not restore disc function. To describe the complex material behaviors of these tissues, including anisotropy, nonlinearity, inhomogeneity, and viscoelasticity, Dr. Elliott primarily uses mathematical models and mechanical tests. The mathematical models are applied to the study of human tissue as well as animal models which mimic human conditions. Mathematical models and mechanical tests, in combination with biochemical composition and microstructural measurements, lead to a better understanding of tissue function as well as the mechanisms for degeneration, injury and healing. In addition, the detailed knowledge of material behaviors gained through these methods is valuable in the development and evaluation of new treatments, such as surgical repair and tissue engineering.