Delaware Rehabilitation Institute holds inaugural symposium
Celebrating the launch of the Delaware Rehabilitation Institute (DRI) are (from left) Delaware Gov. Jack Markell; Thomas Buchanan, DRI director; and Mark Barteau, senior vice provost for research and strategic initiatives.
College of Health Sciences Dean Kathleen Matt: "Universities have traditionally been responsible for developing the knowledge, but we are at a time when that’s not enough. We need to be able to translate it into applications that will have an immediate impact.”
Stephen Katz of the National Institute of Arthritis and Muskuloskeletal and Skin Diseases discusses how basic biology is being translated to clinical medicine.
Zev Rymer of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago cautions that robotic therapy has not been as effective as originally hoped.


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Editor's note: For a brief video highlighting Delaware Rehabilitation Institute research, click here.

11:13 a.m., Feb. 28, 2011----The Delaware Rehabilitation Institute (DRI) was officially launched on Thursday, Feb. 24, with a one-day research symposium at the University of Delaware's Clayton Hall.

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According to Thomas Buchanan, DRI director and George W. Laird Professor of Mechanical Engineering, the new institute builds on a strong history of rehabilitation research and practice in Delaware, bringing together academic investigators, clinical scientists and clinicians to enable breakthrough findings to be taken from the laboratory to the clinic.

After the audience viewed a brief video highlighting several DRI research projects, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell delivered brief opening remarks. He referred to DRI as “a big deal for Delaware.”

“Cooperation is one of the things we do well in Delaware,” he said, “and it's great for me as governor to see this kind of cooperation and achievement. To see it come to life and to see the positive impact on people from little kids to world-class athletes and everyone in between -- that's what it's all about.”

Markell noted that UD has received substantial funding from the National Institutes of Health -- support that may be at risk with budget cuts. “It's important that all of us care about these kinds of investments and innovations,” he said, “and that we speak up.”

He also pointed out that there are very few centers across the country taking the holistic, comprehensive approach to rehabilitation adopted in Delaware.

Mark Barteau, senior vice provost for research and strategic initiatives at UD, said that DRI is the fourth in a series of institutes established over the past 12 years on the foundation of existing strengths at UD. The other three are the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, the UD Energy Institute and the Delaware Environmental Institute.

“With the formation of this new institute,” he said, “we've strapped another engine on the rocket that is UD's Path to ProminenceTM.”

Kathleen Matt, dean of the UD College of Health Sciences, pointed to the tremendous potential offered by a clinical and translational science institute like DRI.

“It's one thing to study mechanisms of disease,” she said, “but then what do you do with that knowledge bank? Universities have traditionally been responsible for developing the knowledge, but we are at a time when that's not enough. We need to be able to translate it into applications that will have an immediate impact.”

UD Provost Tom Apple said that UD's vision for the future of health sciences is, in many ways, aligned with the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research: To transform the way research is conducted and speed the movement of scientific discoveries from bench to bedside.

“The University of Delaware is the ideal setting for translational research, and DRI is an excellent example of how we can enhance our efforts of cross-campus research collaborations to really make a difference in people's lives,” he said. “In this living laboratory, we can shorten the time and distance from discovery to delivery. We can go from bench to bedside and back again, continually refining research, practice and technology.”


”The Future of Rehabilitation: A View from the NIH,” Stephen Katz, director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Muskuloskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)

One of 27 institutes making up NIH, NIAMS supports research on bone health and disease, degenerative joint disease, musculoskeletal trauma, degenerative medicine, implant science and devices. Most of the agency's other institutes also have at least some stake in rehab research, he said.

Katz shared statistics showing that musculoskeletal disorders have an impact beyond cardiovascular diseases at every age from 18 to 85+.

Also, with more soldiers' lives being saved than in previous wars, an increase in wounded warriors with traumatic limb injuries has contributed to an increase in the need for new rehab strategies and devices.

Katz provided examples of basic biology being translated to clinical medicine, including one case where improved understanding of a rare disease has led to an impact on wounded warriors.

“Rehabilitation research spans from the very molecular to the translational,” he said. “This concept of rehab medicine covering a broad spectrum from basic biology to clear translation to the patient's immediate problem is very real.”

”The Future of Rehabilitation: An RIC Perspective,” Zev Rymer, vice president for research at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

Rymer said that rehabilitation research has grown significantly over the past 20 years, with funding provided by sources ranging from NIH to the Department of Education and the Department of Defense.

Successes include the development and use of evidence-based approaches, outcome assessment tools, and new engineering technologies such as advanced prostheses, robotics and diagnostic tools.

He cautioned, however, that while thousands of robotics applications and tools have been developed, robotic therapy has not proven to be as effective as originally hoped.

“But I don't think the problem is with the technologies,” Rymer said. “It's with us -- the users.” He emphasized the importance of including psychologists so that learning strategies are better understood and incorporated into future modifications of robotic devices.

“In terms of education and training, we're not really ready for the future,” Rymer said. “We're not training M.D.s to prescribe the new devices, and P.T.s and O.T.s are not prepared to use them.”

The event also included research overviews from UD faculty on stroke, osteoarthritis, childhood obesity, biomedical engineering, rehabilitation robots for infants and ACL injuries. Other sessions covered work being done by researchers at UD's partner institutions in the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance, as well as at other organizations in Delaware and beyond.

In addition, more than 20 research teams presented posters highlighting their ongoing work.

For more information about DRI, visit the website at [].

Article by Diane Kukich
Photos by Ambre Alexander