Glasgow experts unveil first virtual human foot

Project leader Jim Woodburn. Picture: Peter Devlin
Project leader Jim Woodburn. Picture: Peter Devlin
Share this article
Have your say

THE world’s first virtual human foot, pioneered by Scottish ­experts to improve treatments for millions of people, is to be unveiled today.

Researchers at Glasgow ­Caledonian University (GCU) led an ­international team to develop the groundbreaking simulation.

The technology could help disabled athletes like Oscar Pistorius. Picture: Getty

The technology could help disabled athletes like Oscar Pistorius. Picture: Getty

Called the Glasgow/Maastricht foot model, it is based on three years of painstaking analysis of the movement and form of the dozens of bones, joints, ­ligaments, muscles and tendons that make up the human foot.

It will be used as a test-bed for a huge range of potential cures, ­treatments and aids for ­conditions ranging from simple bunions to amputations caused by accident or illness.

Experts believe the model can help reduce recovery times and symptoms for around 200 ­million Europeans who suffer from disabling foot and ankle conditions, including thousands of Scottish stroke victims. It could also be used to help boost the performance of paraylmpic athletes such as South African “bladerunner”, Oscar Pistorius.

Professor Jim Woodburn, the project co-ordinator at GCU who co-operated with colleagues at Maastricht University, said: “Previous to this development, most computer models of the human body ended in a black rectangle – the foot was too complicated to model.

The technology could help disabled athletes. Picture: Getty

The technology could help disabled athletes. Picture: Getty

“The Glasgow/Maastricht foot is a game changer. It opens the door to a huge range of applications, including the manufacture of better and more efficient orthotics, resulting in quicker recovery times, reduced symptoms and improved functional ability for those suffering from conditions which afflict the foot and lower leg. The fact the model has been named, at least in part, after Glasgow is testament to the hard work put in by the team ­working at GCU.”

The human foot has 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments – making it difficult to model accurately.

Researchers used computer tomography and magnetic resonance images from 15 patients with a variety of foot and leg conditions in Glasgow, and another 10 patients in ­Maastricht, to show the impact of different ailments.

The data was used by Danish biomechanical firm AnyBody Technology to improve software by bringing an “unprecedented level of anatomical detail”.

Arne Kiis, AnyBody Technology sales manager, said: “Orthopaedic device manufacturers gait lab researchers and others have an opportunity to create a new generation of products and services based on a thorough understanding of ­dynamic foot biomechanics.”

There are more than 112,000 stroke victims in Scotland, of whom more than 20,000 suffer from foot drop – reduced muscle control that makes it harder for patients to lift their feet.

Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland chief executive David Clark said: “This advanced computer model will help … people with functional movement.”