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You can learn a lot from a bushbaby

As a post-doctoral fellow at NEOMED, Noah Dunham, Ph.D., studied locomotion in a variety of animals in their natural habitats and in the lab of Jesse Young, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and neurobiology.

Now as a research curator for the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Dr. Dunham is once again working with Dr. Young, this time on a project measuring jumping ability of small primates at the zoo.

“Locomotion is really an overlooked area,” said Dr. Dunham. “This research is interesting in that we are combining zoo research with traditionally what’s been more laboratory-focused research.”

Why study the mechanics of a monkey’s jump?

“If we understand how this tiny 200-gram monkey can jump 8 feet in the air, then we really understand something important about how the musculoskeletal system works in general,” Dr. Young said.

Understanding the evolution and adaptation of those tiny monkeys to their environment can potentially have applications for human engineering, through biomimicry. “If we understand how evolution has solved a problem, then we can crib that solution and apply it to a manmade device,” he added.

Integrative and Inclusive

Dr. Young’s lab at NEOMED is part of the Musculoskeletal Research Focus Area, which promotes the health and understanding of musculoskeletal biology. Eight research scientists study the origins of musculoskeletal forms to understand how performance influences disease and evolution. The research provides an integrative and inclusive view of muscle, bone and cartilage and uses molecular, biomechanical and evolutionary methods to understand the function of the human body.

“We try to understand how to preserve the health of the musculoskeletal system and also understand its diversity in a variety of different animals,” said Lisa Cooper, Ph.D., MSRFA director and associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology.

With an average h-index of 33 and tens of thousands of citations among them, the research scientists in the MSRFA have proved their status as key opinion leaders.

“The people I work with are experts,” said Dr. Cooper. “They are at the pinnacle of their given fields. So there really is this integration that occurs because we have such a strong coherent group that is very cooperative and collaborative.”

Learn more about the Musculoskeletal Research Focus Area:

Watch A Partner’s Perspective on Musculoskeletal Research

Watch Musculoskeletal Research at NEOMED