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Hanna Isaksson


Research area: Biomechanics - What happens when we load our body?

A portrait photo of Hanna Isaksson. Hanna has brown hair tied back and is wearing a striped t-shirt and a black cardigan. She is smiling.

I do research in biomedical engineering, more specifically in biomechanics. This means that with help from the laws of physics, I try to understand how forces affect our body, and more specifically the tissues. It's a broad subject, but my research focuses on the musculoskeletal system's tissues, i.e. bones, joints, and tendons. Thus, I remain in the borderland between mechanics and orthopaedics. I try to understand how tissue structure and composition lead to each tissue's unique properties and how these properties change with disease.

What sparked your interest in research?

Whilst studying engineering, I went on an exchange program to Rochester in the US for my thesis semester. There I worked together with a researcher in biomechanics who sparked my interest in the subject. Thanks to her inspiring and motivating me, I decided to apply for a Ph.D. The notion of working with questions that currently lacked answers was fascinating. I liked not being able to look in the back of a book for answers, but having to solve a problem and then convincing oneself and others that the solution to the problem was reasonable.

Tell us about one of your ongoing research projects.

My research group works broadly with both fundamental research and more clinically applicable issues. For example, we use materials science to understand how tissues are structured. By performing experiments at synchrotron and neutron facilities, such as MAX-IV and the upcoming ESS in Lund, we try to understand how the composition and structure of tissues on different length scales (from atoms to whole organs) gives the tissues their specific mechanical properties and function in the body. By studying healthy and diseased tissue, or tissue that has been subjected to different degrees of load, we expand our knowledge in how the tissues are affected by different disease states and how mechanical load can be used as an instrument to affect tissue. It's especially interesting to understand why the resistance to mechanical load changes during aging. In addition, we develop better diagnostic methods for musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoarthritis, by combining knowledge from clinical images with computer simulation models.

What breakthroughs do you hope for within your research area?

I hope that mechanical computer models will be accepted in medicine to a greater extent, both to improve the diagnosis of diseases, and to predict disease development and how different treatment methods can affect a patient. The unique thing about these models is that they are to a large extent patient-specific.

What do you consider to be the most significant contribution you have made to your research area?

My research team has driven the development of mechanobiological prediction models forward, previously for bones and recently for cartilage and tendons. These models can predict how cells react and how tissue changes when subjected to different levels of mechanical load over time. For example, in osteoarthritis, the models can be applied to specifically predict in a patient how the articular cartilage is affected and how mechanical load from movement can be used as a preventive measure.

Read more about Hanna's research in Lund University's research portal

What I prefer to do in my spare time: I enjoy spending time with my family and friends.

A book or a film I would recommend: Uhm, it's been way too long since I read or saw anything else than children's books/films

Something that most people don't know about me: I'm crazy about gardening and my whole living room is filled with cucumber plants.

The best thing about my job is: The freedom to decide what we research and exploring new issues together with incredibly creative employees!