UK receives $100,000 for new in-depth study on hip pain

Source: University of Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)  Researchers at the University of Kentucky have received a $100,000 grant from The Marfan Foundation to assess how patients with Marfan syndrome develop hip pain.

According to UK, the study will be conducted by Mary Sheppard, an assistant professor of family medicine and surgery in the UK College of Medicine, and Michael Samaan, an assistant professor of biomechanics in the UK College of Education Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion.

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Marfan syndrome is a genetic condition that impacts the body’s connective tissue. It most frequently affects the heart, blood vessels, eyes and bones. UK researchers say diagnostic features can include a dilated aorta; dislocated lens; long arms, legs and fingers; a curved spine; a chest that sinks in or sticks out; flat feet; and an abnormally shaped hip joint, among others.

The cardiovascular impacts of having Marfan syndrome can be significant, and have been the focus of the majority of prior research, according to UK. The study will be a first-look at the mechanisms involved in the onset of hip joint pain and cartilage degeneration in patients with Marfan syndrome.

Nearly half of patients with Marfan syndrome self-report hip joint pain yet it is highly unrecognized by clinicians.

“This combination of potentially weak hip joint musculature and abnormal joint shape can lead to high amounts of hip joint loading during walking, which may cause hip pain and cartilage breakdown,” said Sheppard.

According to UK, the research team will take a closer look at how the muscle weakness associated with Marfan syndrome leads to problems with hip joint muscle function, muscle morphology and gait mechanics. The exact association of these factors with the onset of hip joint pain and cartilage degeneration is unknown and of particular interest to the researchers.

“A mechanistic assessment of the effects of Marfan syndrome on the muscles and hip is needed because, although patients with this syndrome have weak quadriceps and hamstring muscles, we do not know whether or not the muscles around the hip joint are affected by the syndrome,” said Samaan. “Our project will determine how hip joint muscle weakness, size, and amount of fat within the muscle affects how the hip joint moves during walking in patients with Marfan syndrome.”

Patients from Sheppard’s clinic who volunteer for the study will have an MRI taken and have their gait analyzed in the UK Biodynamics Laboratory. The strength, size and amount of fat within their hip abductors will be measured, as well as the corresponding effects on their hip joint movement patterns, hip joint pain and cartilage health.

“Our hope is that this will allow clinicians to develop treatments that can improve hip muscle function, reduce hip joint pain and reduce the risk of developing hip osteoarthritis in people with Marfan syndrome,” said Samaan.

Researchers expect future studies will help create targeted muscle-based therapies to reduce hip pain in people with Marfan syndrome and related conditions.

The Marfan Foundation is a nonprofit organization that works to save lives and improve the quality of life for individuals and families with Marfan, Loeys-Dietz, VEDS and other genetic aortic and vascular conditions through research, education and support.

According to UK, the grant awarded to Sheppard and the UK team is part of the foundation’s 2020 research grant program. The total amount of research funded by this program in 2020 is $1.4 million. For more information, click HERE.

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Erica joins the ABC 36 family as a Co-Anchor of Good Morning Kentucky weekday mornings from 5am-7am with Cody Adams and Good Day Kentucky weekday mornings from 9am to 10am. Erica also anchors News at Midday from 12-12:30pm. She is also a Web and Social Media Content Producer. Erica graduated in three and a half years from Michigan State University with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism and specialization in Women, Gender and Social Justice. Although she hails from Michigan, Erica has worked as a News Reporter/Sports Anchor for the CBS-affiliate in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Prior to that, she worked for a PBS-affiliate there covering all types of news – even providing live reports for The Weather Channel during her first hurricane. She then moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana and worked as the Weekend Anchor/Reporter at KPLC, the NBC/FOX/CW affiliate. Erica comes to Lexington from the Huntington area where she worked at WSAZ, an NBC/CW affiliate in West Virginia, as a weekday evening anchor covering the tri states of Ohio and Kentucky as well. In addition to her background on TV, Erica has worked in radio, served as the PA announcer for the Class A "Lansing Lugnuts" and hosted Carnival parades in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Some of her favorite hobbies include running, reading, hiking, spending time with her husband and taking pictures of their furbabies. Erica is big on community involvement, having served as a board member for Dress for Success, volunteered as a Big with Big Brothers Big Sisters, worked on the Mayor's Armed Forces Commission in Lake Charles and hosted countless events. She hopes you can connect with her on Facebook: EricaBivensTV and on Twitter: @ericabivens or Instagram: erica.bivens. You can also email her at Please send all event inquiries via email. Erica is excited to explore Lexington and the outdoors and - of course - meet all of you!