Cardiff University uses movie special effects to fight arthritis

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe rehabilitation suite uses motion sensors and a treadmill

Technology usually associated with Hollywood blockbusters is being used to help tackle arthritis.

A virtual reality centre - believed to be the first of its kind in the UK - has been set up at Cardiff University with equipment used to create special effects in films.

The £500,000 investment includes cameras, a cinema screen and computers to monitor how joints are moving.

More than 10 million UK adults seek help for arthritis each year.

It can lead to pain, disability, joint damage and reduced quality of life and treatment can include drugs, physical therapies and surgery.

It is hoped the new technology will help arthritis patients and people who suffer from other limb disorders by allowing experts to examine their movement.

Researchers are currently studying a group of patients with knee injuries who are each fitted with infra red sensors - similar to ones used to create special effects - before taking to the treadmill.

As they take part in various exercises the researchers are then able to build a digital picture of the way each patient's joints are performing.

Insights from the project are being used to help develop new rehabilitation tools to ease knee joint problems.

The suite puts Wales at the forefront of research into arthritis, according to Dr Paulien Roos, academic fellow at Cardiff University's Biomechanics and Bioengineering Centre.

"It's an excellent tool that really helps to move our research forward.

"Normally it would take us days or even years to calculate the measurements this tool allows us to gather.

"We can now get that information immediately so we can give real time feedback to patients.

"We can tell patients how they can improve their movement and hopefully alleviate future joint problems."

'Greater understanding'

One of the patients taking part in the research was Liz Evans from Newport who badly damaged her knee in a skiing accident.

"I was made very aware that I was going to be vulnerable to getting osteoarthritis in years to come," she said.

"I don't want that to hit me. I'm keen to do whatever I can to help the researchers find out more about the causes and ways of postponing the onset of arthritis.

"It's helped me to understand the mechanics of my injury and it's also enjoyable to use.

"I think that there's a wealth of knowledge that can be gained by doing all those measures and getting a greater understanding of human movement."

The project is supported by Arthritis Research UK, which funds one of the researchers.

The charity's regional fundraising manager for south and mid Wales, Anna-Marie Jones, said it could lead to a breakthrough.

"One in six in the UK suffer with arthritis and that affects the young as well as the old," she said.

"There are actually 15,000 children in the UK that have arthritis.

"By putting our funds into work like this we certainly will become nearer to finding a cure for arthritis."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites