Spotlight on Dr Elena Seminati



CAMERA Co-Investigator, Dr Elena Seminati joined the University of Bath in September 2014 as teaching fellow and is now a lecturer in clinical biomechanics in the Department for Health.

Obtaining the Laurea degree (BSc plus MSc) in Biomedical Engineering (2007) from Politecnico di Milano and a PhD degree in Human Physiology (2010) from Università degli Studi di Milano, Elena remained in Milano to undertake two post-doctoral research positions (2010-2014), working on human locomotion and injury prevention in the volleyball game and in 2012 she was awarded the ‘Young Investigator Award’ at the 17th Annual European College of Sport Science (ECSS)-Congress in Bruges, Belgium.

Elena is interested in the biomechanics of the human motion, especially for clinical, sport and injury prevention applications. Her previous research has been focused on the relation between energetics and mechanics of different forms of locomotion and sports. She has been working on shoulder injury prevention in volleyball players, biomechanics of cycling and pathological locomotion in osteoarthritis affected patients and cervical spine injury prevention in rugby activities.

In 2016, Elena joined CAMERA working on a project entitled ‘Mapping Amputees residuum changes’. This research aims to generate an accurate measure of daily and long term residual limb volume changes in lower limb amputees, providing data, which can immediately be utilised for patients’ rehabilitation and adaptable prosthetic liners design.

Elena’s research interests include lower limb amputees, pathological locomotion, sport injury prevention, musculoskeletal simulation, and motion analysis and her research approach includes both experimental sessions and musculoskeletal modelling of the human motion, in order to establish risk factors, prevent injuries/illness and improve performance.

Research Projects

Mapping residuum volume in amputees 

The majority of lower limb amputations are now due to the effects of vascular disease on patients over 65 years of age. Amputation rates are continuing to rise, in part due to the continuing increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus, but also traumatic injury. Following amputation, the residual limb of adults always undergoes substantial changes in shape and volume during postoperative recovery. These fluctuations are often magnified in the elderly and populations with poor circulation due to oedema and other fluid retention in lower limbs. Fluctuations in the distribution of mechanical pressures between the residual limb and the prosthesis contribute to these changes. Several months after surgery daily volume fluctuations continue, with their magnitude varying among individuals. Accurate measurement of the residual limb volume is important to determine the right moment for definitive prosthetic fitting, and for the success of the prosthesis and the rehabilitation process. The proposed research is a longitudinal study that aims to generate a more accurate profile of the daily and long term volume changes of the residuum, providing data which can immediately be utilised to inform the patient’s rehabilitation and for prosthesis design to ensure optimum fit over time. We aim to recruit 24 patients following a lower limb amputation, through the Bristol Centre for Enablement (North Bristol NHS Trust), which they will routinely visit for postoperative rehabilitation. We intend to develop a novel dataset on residuum volume/shape change, by applying a range of advanced optical and laser 3D scanning techniques in combination with residual limb surface pressure monitoring and physical activity assessments. The dataset will include: i) longitudinal tracking over a 36-week period (updates every 4 weeks); ii) a series of within day measurements that capture the short-term effect common lifestyle-rehabilitation tasks have on residual limb volume.

ACTIPh – Additive Constructed Trastibial Intelligent ProstHetic 

It is estimated that 150,000 people per year will suffer a below knee amputation and this is increasing due to increases in the prevalence of diabetes and related vascular disease. The loss of mobility that comes from loss of limb leads to decreased social and economic participation as well as further health issues. Current prosthetic feet do not adequately address lost muscle function leading to: reduced mobility; falls and fractures; and damage to the spine and remaining leg due to asymmetric and high loading. This project develops a robotic prosthetic foot to emulate lost muscles by integrating technologies including additive manufacturing, hydraulic actuation, advanced sensing and microprocessor control. Elena and her team are mainly involved in the quantitative biomechanical evaluation of the gait of human amputees who are wearing this new prosthetic device, to investigate the prosthesis the benefits for the users.

Lower limb prosthetic sockets with embedded sensors 

Numerous sensing techniques have been investigated in an effort to monitor the main parameters influencing the residual limb/prosthesis interface, fundamental to the optimum design of prosthetic socket solutions in lower amputees. Sensing integration within sockets is notoriously complex and can cause user discomfort. A prosthetic liner with embedded sensors could offer a solution. However, to allow for a functional and comfortable instrumented liner, customised designs are needed. This project presents a novel approach to design and manufacture a fully personalised liner manufactured from a scanned 3D image of the patient’s residual limb. A smart manufacturing approach is used to embed temperature and humidity sensors. In collaboration with the Mechanical engineering Department at the University of Bath and the BioRobotics Institute, of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa in Italy, this work describes a new personalised liner with temperature and humidity sensors. This approach allows for a range of sensors to be smoothly embedded into a liner by slightly modifying the design. This will enable a dynamic assessment of how the residual limb behaves within the socket during different daily cycles and results in the design of advanced socket solutions that are personalised specifically for individual requirements.

SPECS – Sustainable prosthetic care solutions

Elena and her team have been working to address the barriers for improvement in the prosthetic care in Malaysia. By meeting local authorities, charities and university partners in Kuala Lumpur, the priorities for improving prosthetic care have been identified. Material investigation for prosthetic components design has been performed together with preliminary epidemiological data collection on the amputees. The SPECS project has established a culture of cross-disciplinary research dissemination and engagement activities, by addressing barriers for future projects applicability in Malaysia and developing sustainable strategies and partnerships for future applications:

  • The team has been working actively with local academic experts in materials, design/manufacturing and healthcare practitioners, to identify potential materials and technologies for new cheap prosthetic solutions.
  • They have engaged with local charities, companies, authorities/policy makers (Ministry of Health and Rehabilitation in Malaysia) and other organisations (e.g. SOCSO – the main prostheses provider in Malaysia), to reach the patient population with the future technologies.
  • They have started new collaborations with prosthetic companies to translate the prosthetics design into real-world solutions.
  • They have facilitated the interaction between the Malaysian Universities, the International Society of Prosthetic and Orthotics (ISPO) and other UK Prosthetic and Orthotics universities/rehabilitation centres (NHS) to provide guidance for educating new certified figures of prosthetists and orthotists.

 

Research Outputs

Prosthesis materials and physical activity: key research directions in lower limb prosthetics informed by patient and public involvement. / Seminati, Elena; Morgado Ramirez, Dafne Zuelima; Young, Matthew; Twiste, Martin. 2019. Poster session presented at ISPO – World Congress of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics, Kobe, Japa

Reliability of Three Different Methods for Assessing Amputee Residuum Shape and Volume. / Bilzon, James; Canepa Talamas, David; Young, Matthew; Twiste, Martin; Dhokia, Vimal; Seminati, Elena. 2019. Abstract from ISPO – World Congress of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics, Kobe, Japan.

The use of a prototype powered ankle prosthesis improves clinical outcomes of walking on level and inclined surfaces. / McGuigan, Miranda; Seminati, Elena; Yu, Tian; Iravani, Pejman; Bhatti, Jawaad; McGrath, Mike; Zahedi, Saeed; Moser, David. 2019. Abstract from ISPO – World Congress of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics, Kobe, Japan.

Volume adaptation of the residuum of lower limb amputees over short and long term. / Seminati, Elena; Canepa Talamas, David; Young, Matthew; Twiste, Martin; Dhokia, Vimal; Bilzon, James. 2019. Abstract from ISPO – World Congress of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics, Kobe, Japan.

A new personalised liner with embedded temperature and humidity sensors for lower limb amputees. / Paternò, Linda; Dhokia, Vimal; Seminati, Elena. 2020. Abstract from 1st International Conference on Orthotics and Prosthetics, KualaLumpur, Malaysia.

Feasibility of a three-camera, treadmill-based gait system to support total knee replacement monitoring within a hospital clinic. / Bruce, David; Murray, James R; Whitehouse, Michael R.; Seminati, Elena; Preatoni, Ezio. Bath Biomechanics Symposium. 2019.

Measurement of head forces magnitude and location during live scrummaging. / Silvestros, Pavlos; Cremen, Eoin; Preatoni, Ezio; Seminati, Elena; Cazzola, Dario. Abstract Book of the 27th Congress of the International Society of Biomechanics, Calgary (Canada), July 31st-August 4th, 2019. International Society of Biomechanics (ISB), 2019.

Prosthesis materials and physical activity: key research directions in lower limb prosthetics informed by patient and public involvement. / Seminati, Elena; Morgado Ramirez, Dafne Zuelima; Young, Matthew; Twiste, Martin. 2019. Poster session presented at ISPO – World Congress of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics, Kobe, Japan.


Written by CAMERA Centre Coordinator