Dr. Marnie M. Saunders

Dr. Marnie M. Saunders

Title: Associate Dean Grad School, Associate Professor
Dept/Program: Biomedical Engineering
Office: OLRC 301G
Phone: 330-972-6590
Fax: 330-374-8834
Email: mms129@uakron.edu


Professor Saunders began her education in Mechanical Engineering studying at The University of Akron.  She completed her BSME in 1991 then continued her graduate education at The University of Akron in The Department of Biomedical Engineering receiving her MS in 1994 and her PhD in 1998 with a concentration in orthopaedic biomechanics.  Upon graduation she was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation studying bone cell mechanotransduction.  She joined the faculty at Penn State upon completion of her post-doctoral fellowship in 2000 and served as a basic science faculty member in a clinical department until 2006 when she accepted an academic position in the Center for Biomedical Engineering at the University of Kentucky.  In the fall of 2010, she returned to The University of Akron as an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Research Accomplishments

My areas of research are in orthopaedic biomechanics and bone cell mechanobiology.  Within the field of orthopaedic biomechanics my lab conducts studies using standard mechanical testing systems to determine mechanical properties of bone and implant systems and evaluate fracture fixation systems.  The latter research (fracture fixation comparisons) is generally conducted in collaboration with surgeons.  Design and analysis of prototype implants is also a major interest in the lab and we combine computer modeling, numerical techniques and mechanical testing for this purpose.  I also focus upon the development of loading platforms that are very cost-effective while maintaining flexibility.  Previous systems have involved platforms that enable loading of tissues, implants and scaffolds in a variety of loading modes (tension/compression, bending, torsion) on the order of grams and Nmm.  This range is well-suited for transgenic rodent models, tissue engineered scaffolds and dental implant micromotion studies.   

My second research area is in the field of bone cell mechanobiology.  In contrast to classic biomechanics research where mechanical loading is applied to evaluate an ‘end-state’ of bone and bone is typically treated as a static structure, the field of bone mechanobiology recognizes that bone is a highly dynamic organ and that the bone cells at the microscopic scale (which form and destroy bone) are constantly subjected to mechanical loading that uniquely affects the balance between maintaining bone quality and quantity.  Altered loading environments such as those that occur in implant introduction, metabolic diseases (eg, osteoporosis) and over- and under- loaded environments (paralysis, spaceflight, exercise) have profound effects on bone.  My lab focuses on the development and utilization of mechanical platforms that subject bone cells to mechanical stimulation to enable the study of the isolated loading effects on molecular and cellular activity.  These loading platforms include fluid shear and substrate deformation loading.  Current research in my lab is working to develop micro total analysis systems for the purpose of studying the initial events in overloading bone and introducing microdamage at the cellular level.  Applications to this work include bioreactor development, functional bone tissue engineering and clinical treatment of fracture.


Book Chapters, Solicited Publications and Invited Papers

  1. Saunders MM. (2011) Biomimetics in bone cell mechanotransduction: Understanding bone’s response to mechanical loading.  In Advances in Biomimetics (Chapter 5)

  2. Saunders MM, Van Sickels J, Heil B, Gurley K. (2011) Organ culture modeling of distraction osteogenesis. Invited Paper, Proceedings of the 2011 SEM Annual Conference and Exposition on Experimental and Applied Mechanics (201):1- 7.  (Invited paper/presentation)

  3. Saunders MM. (2010) Small-scale mechanical testing: Applications to bone biomechanics and mechanobiology. Proceedings of the 2010 SEM Annual Conference and Exposition on Experimental and Applied Mechanics. (284):1-8.   (Invited paper/presentation)

  4. Saunders MM, Lee J.  (2008) The influence of mechanical environment on bone healing and distraction osteogenesis. In Atlas of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Clinics of North America devoted to Distraction, 16:147-158 (Chapter 1).

  5. Segal LS, Saunders MM. (2007) Single gegen doppelte Schraubenfixierung fur geglittenes femoral Hauptepiphysis. Ein Bericht der biomechanischen Studien. Orthopaedische Praxis 43(2):54-59 – translation Orthopedic Practice (Single versus double screw fixation for slipped capital femoral epiphysis. A review of biomechanical studies)  (invited paper – German Surgical Journal).

  6. Donahue HJ, Chen Q, Jacobs CR, Saunders MM, Yellowley CE. (2003) Bone cells and mechanotransduction. In Molecular Biology in Orthopaedics (AAOS) Editors: Rosier and Evans.

  7. Saunders MM, Jacobs CR. (1999) Towards engineering the human heart.  Web Article for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). (honorarium)

Manuscripts in Publication  

  1. Saunders MM, Brecht JS, Kay D, Njus G, Jacobs CR. (2011) The feasibility of lower limb direct skeletal attachment (DSA) in a Yucatan micropig model. Journal of Investigative Surgery (in review)

  2. Simmerman LA, Sethu P, Saunders MM (2011).  Osteocyte characterization on polydimethylsiloxane substrates for microsystems applications. Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering  (in review)

  3. Saunders MM. (2010) Promoting mathematics and science through biomedical engineering outreach. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School 16(4):240-246.

  4. Saunders MM, Burger RB, Kalantari B, Nichols AD, Witman C. (2010)  Development of a cost-effective torsional unit for small-scale biomechanical testing. Medical Engineering and Physics 32:802-807 (available on-line 6/15/10).

  5. Petrey JS, Saunders MM, Kluemper GT, Beeman CS. (2010) Temporary anchorage device insertion variables: effects on retention.  Angle Orthodontist 80(4):446-453.

  6. Saunders MM, Simmerman LA, Reed GL, Sharkey NA, Taylor AF. (2010) Biomimetic bone mechanotransduction modeling in neonatal rat femur organ cultures: Structural verification of proof of concept.  Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology 9:539-550 (available on-line 2/21/10)  

  7. Saunders M, Baxter C, Abou-Elella A, Kunselman AR, Trussell J. (2008) BioGlue and dermabond save time and leak less than sutured microsurgical vasovastostomy. Fertility and Sterility 91(2):560-565.

  8. Taylor AF, Saunders MM, Shingle D, Cimbala JM, Zhou Z, Donahue HJ. (2007) Osteocytes communicate fluid flow-mediated effects to osteoblasts altering their phenotype. The American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology 292:C545-C552.

  9. Segal LS, Jacobson JA, Saunders MM. (2006) Biomechanical analysis of in situ single versus double screw fixation in a non-reduced slipped capital femoral epiphysis model.  Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics 26(4):479-485.

  10. Saunders MM, Taylor AF, Du C, Zhou Z, Pellegrini VD Jr, Donahue HJ. (2006)  Mechanical stimulation effects on functional end effectors in osteoblastic MG-63 cells. Journal of Biomechanics 39(8):1419-1427.

  11. Naidu SH, Kulkarni N, Saunders MM. (2006) Titanium basal joint arthroplasty: a finite element and a clinical study. Journal of Hand Surgery. Journal of Hand Surgery 31(5):760-765.

  12. Li Z, Zhou Z, Saunders MM, Donahue HJ. (2006) Modulation of connexin 43 alters the expression of osteoblastic differentiation markers. The American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology 290:C1248-55.

  13. Bennett GL, Cameron B, Njus G, Saunders M, Kay DB. (2005) Tibiotalocalcaneal arthrodesis: a biomechanical assessment of stability. Foot and Ankle International 26(7):530-536.

  14. Black KP, Saunders MM. (2005) Expansion anchors for use in anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction: establishing proof of concept in a benchtop analysis. Medical Engineering and Physics 27:425-434.

  15. Saunders MM, Donahue HJ. (2004) Development of a cost-effective loading machine for biomechanical evaluation of mouse transgenic models. Medical Engineering and Physics 26:595-603.

  16. Kapoor P, Saunders MM, Li Z, Zhou Z, Schaeffer N, Kunze EL, Samant RS, Welch DR, Donahue HJ. (2004) Breast cancer metastatic potential: Correlation with increased heterotypic gap junctional intercellular communication between breast cancer cells and osteoblastic cells.  International Journal of Cancer 111 693-697.

  17. Hugate R, Pennypacker J, Saunders M, Juliano P. (2004) The effects of intratendinous or retrocalcaneal bursal injections of corticosteroids on the biomechanical properties of rabbit Achilles tendons.  Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery Am. 86-A(4):794-801.

  18. Huang-Brown KM, Saunders MM, Kirsch T, Donahue HJ, Reid JS.  (2004) The effect of COX-2 specific inhibitors on fracture healing in the adult rat femur.  Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery Am. 86-A(1): 116-23.

  19. Donahue HJ, Saunders MM, Li Z, Mastro AM, Gay CV, Welch DR. (2003) A potential role for gap junctions in breast cancer metastasis to bone. Journal of Musculoskeletal and Neuronal Interactions 3(2):156-161.

  20. Saunders MM, Schwentker N, Kay D, Bennett G, Jacobs C, Verstraete MC, Njus GO. (2003) Finite element analysis as a tool for parametric prosthetic foot design and evaluation. Technique development in the solid ankle cushioned heel (SACH) foot. Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering 6(1): 75-87.

  21. Saunders MM, You J, Zhou Z, Li Z, Yellowley CE, Kunze E, Jacobs CR, Donahue HJ. (2003) Fluid-flow induced prostaglandin E2 response of osteoblastic ROS 17/2.8 cells is gap junction-mediated and independent of cytosolic calcium. Bone 32(4): 350-356.

  22. Saunders MM, You J, Trosko JE, Yamasaki H, Donahue HJ, Jacobs CR. (2001) Gap junctions and fluid flow response in MC3T3-E1 cells. The American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology 281: (6)1917-1925.

  23. Saunders MM, Seraj, MJ, Li, Z, Zhou, Z, Winter, CR, Welch, DR, Donahue, HJ. (2001) Breast cancer metastatic potential correlates with a breakdown in homospecific and heterospecific gap junctional intercellular communication. Cancer Research, Advances in Brief 61: 1765-1767.

  24. Samant RS, Seraj MJ, Saunders MM, Sakamaki TS, Shevde LA, Harms JF, Leonard TO, Goldberg SF, Budgeon L, Meehan WJ, Winter CR, Christensen ND, Verderame MF, Donahue HJ, Welch DR. (2001) Analysis of mechanisms underlying BRMS1 suppression of metastasis. Clinical and Experimental Metastasis 18: 683-693.

  25. Black KP, Saunders MM, Stube KC, Moulton MJ, Jacobs CR. (2000) Effects of interference fit screw length on tibial tunnel fixation for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. American Journal of Sports Medicine 28(6): 846-849.

  26. Saunders M, Njus GO, Kay DB, Brecht JS: The feasibility of directly attaching artificial limbs to bone. In Bridging the gap between dental and orthopaedic implants, 1998. 

  27. Saunders MM. (1998) The feasibility of lower limb direct skeletal attachment: A pilot study.  PhD Dissertation, Depts of Biomedical Engineering, The University of Akron, Akron, OH.

  28. Saunders MM. (1994) The experimental and theoretical characterization of the solid ankle cushioned heel (SACH) foot. Masters Thesis, Dept  of Biomedical Engineering, The University of Akron, Akron, OH. 


Fellow, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine (2000); PhD, The University of Akron (1998); MS, The University of Akron (1994); BSME, The University of Akron (1991)



Tools for Biomedical Engineering (Solidworks Instructor)
Experimental Techniques in Biomechanics (Tension, Bending and Torsion Laboratories)
Introduction to Bone Biomechanics and Mechanobiology


Introduction to Bone Biomechanics and Mechanobiology
Introduction to Continuum Biomechanics