OpenSim User Profile: Silvia Blemker, PhD
Simbios broadened University of Virginia’s Silvia Blemker’s horizons; and OpenSim is helping her understand hamstring injuries in sprinters.
Silvia Blemker, PhD, has deep roots in Simbios. As a Stanford graduate student, she watched 15 faculty members put together the grant application for this National Center for Biomedical Computing (“a great experience for me at the time,” she says). And as a Stanford post-doc, “Simbios broadened my horizons,” she says, by articulating the commonalities between simulating proteins, cells, and whole body systems. Through Simbios, she realized that she didn’t need to limit herself to studying the tissue or whole body scales, but could dive into a deeper level of detail—myosin dynamics, for example. “I now think a lot about how proteins interact and give rise to the contractile behavior of muscle, which is definitely affecting the way I’m going forward in my research,” she says.
Now an assistant professor of biomechanical engineering at the University of Virginia, Blemker’s connections to Simbios remain strong. She and Darryl Thelan, PhD, at the University of Wisconsin, are co-PIs on a collaborative R01 grant with Simbios which seeks to understand and eventually help prevent hamstring injuries that occur during running or sprinting. The researchers are attempting to couple two different computational strategies—3-D models of muscle (done using a program called FEBio) and dynamic simulations of running (done using OpenSim). “That achievement would have many applications beyond muscle injury,” Blemker says, including for the Simbios neuromuscular DBP’s work on muscle contractions in cerebral palsy and Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
“OpenSim is pretty pervasive now in the biomechanics field,” Blemker says. “And Simtk.org is as well. It’s allowing us to share our work and making it easier for others to know about our work.”