Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Interactive 3D models of human joints, showing how common medical complaints have arisen and how we are likely to evolve in the future, have been created at NDORMS.

The researchers created 3D computer models of human joints by compiling 128 slice CT scans of bones from humans, early hominids, primates and dinosaurs. In all, they scanned 224 bone specimens.

By using 3D engineering and mathematical methods the group have produced 3D 'morphs' to plot changes in the shapes of species throughout the human lineage. This has provided new insights into the morphological trends associated with common orthopaedic complaints, such as anterior knee pain and shoulder pain.

Extrapolation of these trends has allowed 3D printing of possible future skeletal shapes as humans evolve.

Samples used in the study were from shoulders, hips and knees, and has enabled the researchers to make mathematical comparisons that could be used as planning tools for orthopaedic surgery. By comparing the modern and ancient samples, the team hopes to gain a better insight into the origins and solutions to common orthopaedic complaints.

Dr Paul Monk, who led the research at the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, said: 'Throughout our lineage we have been adapting the shape of our joints, which leads to a range of new challenges for orthopaedic surgeons. Recently there has been an increase in common problems such as anterior knee pain, and shoulder pain when reaching overhead, which led us to look at how joints originally came to look and function the way they do.

'These models will enable us to identify the root causes of many modern joint conditions, as well as enabling us to anticipate future problems that are likely to begin to appear based on lifestyle and genetic changes.

'Current trends reveal that the modern shapes of joint replacements won’t work in the future, meaning that we will need to re-think our approach for many common surgeries.

'We also wanted to see what we’re all going to look like in the future, and to answer questions such as ‘are we evolving to be taller and faster or weaker’, and ‘might we be evolving to need hip replacements earlier in the future?’'

The specimens scanned include amphibious reptiles (eg. Hellbender), dinosaurs, shrews, tupaiae, lemurs, primates, A. Afarensis (Lucy), H. Erectus (Turkana Boy) and H. Neaderthalis.

The full set of morphs can be viewed online.

Similar stories

Communication at the crossroads of the immune system

In his inaugural article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as an NAS member (elected 2021), Prof Mike Dustin and his research team have explained how messages are passed across the immunological synapse. The research could have implications for future vaccine development and immunotherapy treatments.

Sara Khalid named Associate Professor at NDORMS

The University of Oxford has awarded the title of Associate Professor to Dr Sara Khalid as part of its recognition of excellence awards.

Max Stewart awarded an MRC fellowship

A DPhil candidate at NDORMS, Max received the MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship to further his research into finding new treatments for peripheral nerve injuries.

The new Botnar strategy is announced

After a year as the Director of the Botnar Institute for Musculoskeletal Sciences, Professor Jonathan Rees announces a new structure and strategy that will further enhance research and treatment of bone, joint and musculoskeletal conditions.

New global health grant to improve outcomes for patients with hip fracture

Hip fracture patients in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC) in Asia are set to benefit from a new study that aims to bring best practice programmes to improve quality of life for patients and reduce healthcare costs.

NDORMS welcomes great-granddaughter of former Head of Department

Julia Strubell, great-granddaughter of Professor Josep Trueta, visited NDORMS to find out about his time here and to share her own work with staff and students.