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Scholar Spotlight: Allison N. McCrady

Posted on Monday, March 11, 2024

Allison N. McCrady – Danaher Corporation Scholar
1st Year Scholar, PhD Candidate, Biomedical Engineering
University of Virginia

Current assessments of muscle function for neuromuscular disease rely on a patient’s ability to complete tasks, excluding those with anxiety and cognitive challenges. Using ultrasound imaging and modeling to develop new ways to estimate patient function directly from clinical muscle measurements will improve treatment decisions and therapeutic development for patients. 

Describe the expected benefit of your research to society:
Duchenne muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy are progressive neuromuscular disorders that result in severe muscle weakness and decline in muscle function measured through subjective ratings of participatory movements, largely ignoring the direct impacts of the disease on skeletal muscle. As new treatments emerge, patients achieve more motor milestones and live longer, creating a need for improved functional assessment tools. My research will provide these novel tools at an optimal time when several new investigational therapeutics are nearing FDAD approval for these patient groups. My research will also improve our understanding of the impact of disease-induced muscle changes on force generation, allowing for novel therapeutic targets to be discovered. My research will also bridge the gap between lab and clinic by implementing a powerful finite element modeling pipeline into the clinic to directly measure patient muscle function from muscle measurements. These new assessment tools will create objective and sensitive methods to assess patient function that are inclusive to all patients across functional and cognitive ability scales, expanding the enrollment of these underrepresented groups in clinical trials and improving clinical treatment decisions. 

Community Service, Contributions to DEI and Volunteer Work:
I am extremely enthusiastic about STEM outreach, as it was instrumental to my development as a researcher. I continuously seek and organize opportunities to inspire young kids, especially girls, to love and pursue careers in STEM. An example is the organization of a biomechanics activity exploring the effect of impairments on gait through the lens of Cerebral Palsy. I facilitated this activity for middle school girls at Girl’s Geek Day and high school girls at the Bio-Med Tech-Girls. Both of these groups are supported through the Charlottesville Tech Girls organization, an organization I am passionate about maintaining a connection with throughout my career. I have also helped facilitate events for National Biomechanics Day, a global event seeking to expand the influence and impact of biomechanics on our society. These events have included developing virtual demos of ultrasound to explore tendon mechanics and participating in a live demonstration of working with wearable sensors to quantify gait metrics for high school students. I am currently helping to organize a new activity on the concept of moment arms and the relation to muscle function. This activity is part of National Biomechanics Day and will be facilitated by three organizations (Monticello High School, Computers 4 Kids, and Charlottesville Tech Girls). 

In the Multiscale Muscle Mechanophysiology (M3) Lab, I am the current Green Labs Leader and led the initiative to become a certified Gold Level Green Lab in Summer 2022. This entailed working with the UVA Office of Sustainability and Green Labs group to design a custom plan to reduce our lab’s environmental impact and meet program milestones. We participated in cleaning up our lab space, reducing power usage and waste, and organizing a sustainability lab retreat in the community gardens. Currently, I am involved in discussions about how to reduce the environmental impact of the Biomedical Engineering Department with institutional leaders.

Allison N. McCrady – Danaher Corporation Scholar