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
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.  In addition to her faculty position, she currently serves as the Associate Dean of the Graduate School.

Grants (Over $8.7 million to date as PI and Co-PI)


NSF EBMS (Unsolicited) – Quantification of bone’s load-induced multicellular interactions with a lab-on-a-chip platform (2017-2020)


Selected Completed

NIH NIDCR (R15) – A novel, in vitro platform for correlating and quantifying mechanically-induced bone cell microdamage effects      


NSF CBET (Career) -  A biomimetic, micro total analysis system platform of bone remodeling: elucidating the role of cellular communication         


NSF (EPSCoR) - Engineered platforms for exploring cellular and molecular signaling processes.


NIH NIA (K25) - Osteoblast stimulation effects on osteoclast activity 


The Whitaker Foundation - Quantification of differential osteoblastic activity as a function of substrate and deformation utilizing a novel in situ loading system

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 lab-on-a-chip platforms, bioreactor development, functional bone tissue engineering and clinical treatment of bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw (BRONJ) and fracture.  We have been fortunate to be funded by The Whitaker Foundation, The National Institutes of Health and The National Science Foundation.  We are very appreciative of this support.




  1. Saunders MM. Mechanical Testing for the Biomechanical Engineer: A Practical Guide. Synthesis Digital Library of Engineering and Computer Science, Morgan and Claypool Publishing, 276 pgs, 2015.

This textbook focuses on the practical aspects of mechanical testing and covers basic mechanics, measurement and measurement tools, design, basic machining, mechanical platform and fixture design, and fabrication and practical examples of orthopaedic biomechanics research.                                              ISBN-13 9781627055130

Featured Work/Laboratory

  1. Saunders MM, York SL, King JD, von Deak L, Hayes D. In International Innovation Sept, 2014.
  2. Saunders MM. Development of a cost-effective torsional unit for rodent long bone assessment. New investigational results. In Issues in Biomedical Engineering Research and Application: 2011 Edition. Scholarly Editions, Atlanta GA. Biomedical Engineering Chapter, p 724.

Book Chapters and Solicited Publications

  1. York SL, Shah KS, Saunders MM. (2012) Biomimicry, Microsystems and Bone. In Focus on Biomimetics Research. Nova Science Publishers, 27-42.
  2.  Saunders MM. (2011). Biomimetics in Bone Cell Mechanotransduction: Understanding Bone’s Response to Mechanical Loading, Advances in Biomimetics, Prof. Marko Cavrak (Ed.), InTech, DOI: 10.5772/14362. Available from: https://www.intechopen.com/books/advances-in-biomimetics/biomimetics-in-bone-cell-mechanotransduction-understanding-bone-s-response-to-mechanical-loading  317-348 (Ch 16).
  3. 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(2):147-158 (Ch 1).
  4. 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).
  5. 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, 179-190 (Ch 14).
  6. Saunders MM, Jacobs CR. (1999) Towards engineering the human heart. Web Article for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). (honorarium)
  7. 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.

Manuscripts and Conference Proceedings in Publication

  1. Thoerner R, King JD, Saunders MM. (2018) Application of design aspects in uniaxial loading machine fabrication. Journal of Visual Experimentation (in press)
  2. Young J, Jankord K, Saunders MM, Smith TD. (2018) Getting into shape: limb bone strength in perinatal Lemur catta and Propithecus coquereli. Anatomical Record (in press)
  3. George EL, Lin YL, Saunders MM. (2018) Bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw: A mechanobiology perspective. Bone Reports 8:104-109.
  4. George EL, Truesdell S, York SL, Saunders MM. (2018) Lab-on-a-chip platform for quantification of multicellular interactions in bone remodeling. Experimental Cell Research 365:106-118.  
  5. Van Scoy GK, George EL, Asantewaa FFO, Kerns L, Saunders MM, Prieto-Langarica A. (2017) A cellular automata model of bone formation. Mathematical Biosciences 286:58-64.
  6. York SL, Sethu P, Saunders MM. (2016) In vitro osteocytic microdamage and viability quantification using a microloading platform. Medical Engineering and Physics 38(10):1115-1122.
  7. King JD, Saunders MM. (2016) Design, fabrication and characterization of a pure uniaxial microloading system for biologic testing. Medical Engineering and Physics 38(4):411-416.
  8. York SL, Sethu P, Saunders MM. (2015) Impact of gap junctional intercellular communication on MLO-Y4 sclerostin and soluble factor expression. Annals of Biomedical Engineering 44(4):  1170-1180.
  9. York SL, King JD, Pietros AS, Zhang Newby B, Sethu P, Saunders MM. (2015) Development of a microloading platform for in vitro mechanotransduction studies. Mechanics of Biological Systems and Materials. 7:53-59. (Conference Proceedings)            
  10. King JD, Hayes D, Shah KS, York SL, Sethu P, Saunders MM. (2015) Development of a multi-strain profile for cellular mechanotransduction testing. Mechanics of Biological Systems and Materials. 7:61-67. (Conference Proceedings)
  11. York SL, Shah KS, Sethu P, Saunders MM. (2012) Osteocyte characterization on polydimethylsiloxane substrates for microsystems applications. Journal of Biomimetics, Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering 16:27-42.
  12. Shah K, York S, Sethu P, Saunders MM. (2012) Developing a microloading platform for applications in mechanotransduction research. Mechanics of Biological Systems and Materials, 5:197-205. (Conference Proceedings)
  13. Saunders MM, Brecht JS, Verstraete MC, Kay D, Njus G. (2012) Lower limb direct skeletal attachment: a Yucatan micropig pilot study. Journal of Investigative Surgery 25(6):387-397.
  14. Saunders MM, Van Sickels J, Heil B, Gurley K. (2011) Organ culture modeling of distraction osteogenesis. In Mechanics of Biological Systems and Materials, 2:163-169. (Conference Proceedings)                                                                              
  15. Saunders MM. (2011) Small-scale mechanical testing: Applications to bone biomechanics and mechanobiology. In Time Dependent Constitutive Behavior and Fracture/Failure Processes, Vol 3:345-352. (Conference Proceedings)   
  16. Saunders MM. (2010) See the math behind the medicine. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School 16(4):240-246.
  17. Saunders MM, Burger RB, Kalantari B, Nichols AD, Witman C. (2010) Development of a cost-effective torsional unit for rodent long bone assessment. Medical Engineering and Physics 32(7):802-807.
  18. Petrey JS, Saunders MM, Kluemper GT, Beeman CS. (2010) Temporary anchorage device insertion variables: effects on retention. Angle Orthodontist 80(4):446-453.
  19. 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.  
  20. Saunders M, Baxter C, Abou-Elella A, Kunselman AR, Trussell J. (2009) BioGlue and Dermabond save time, leak less and are not mechanically inferior to two-layer and modified one-layer vasovasostomy. Fertility and Sterility 91(2):560-565.
  21. Taylor AF, Saunders MM, Shingle D, Cimbala JM, Zhou Z, Donahue HJ. (2007) Mechanically stimulated osteocytes regulate osteoblastic activity via gap junctions. The American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology 292(1):C545-C552.
  22. Segal LS, Jacobson JA, Saunders MM. (2006) Biomechanical analysis of in situ single versus double screw fixation in a nonreduced slipped capital femoral epiphysis model. Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics 26(4):479-485.
  23. 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.
  24. Naidu SH, Kulkarni N, Saunders MM. (2006) Titanium basal joint arthroplasty: a finite element analysis and a clinical study. Journal of Hand Surgery. Journal of Hand Surgery 31(5):760-765.
  25. Li Z, Zhou Z, Saunders MM, Donahue HJ. (2006) Modulation of connexin43 alters expression of osteoblastic differentiation markers. The American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology 290(4):C1248-1255.
  26. 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.
  27. Black KP, Saunders MM. (2005) Expansion anchors for use in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction: establishing proof of concept in a benchtop analysis. Medical Engineering and Physics 27(5):425-434.
  28. Saunders MM, Donahue HJ. (2004) Development of a cost-effective loading machine for biomechanical evaluation of mouse transgenic models. Medical Engineering and Physics 26(7):595-603.
  29. 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(5):693-697.
  30. Hugate R, Pennypacker J, Saunders M, Juliano P. (2004) The effects of intratendinous and retrocalcaneal intrabursal injections of corticosteroid on the biomechanical properties of rabbit Achilles tendons. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 86-A(4):794-801.
  31. Huang-Brown KM, Saunders MM, Kirsch T, Donahue HJ, Reid JS. (2004) Effect of COX-2-specific inhibition on fracture healing in the rat femurJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery 86-A(1):116-23.
  32. 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.
  33. 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.

44.   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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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(5):1765-1767.
  3. 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. (2000) Analysis of mechanisms underlying BRMS1 suppression of metastasis. Clinical and Experimental Metastasis 18(8):683-693.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.  

Manuscripts in Review

  1. Crow MJ, George EL, Holda JH, Saunders MM. (2018) Current trends in bone health diagnostics.
  2. Schmitt L, Smalley DL, Mandt G, Saunders MM. (2018) Rotary torsion fixtures for augmentation to existing testing machines: A novel approach to generating pure torsion loading.






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)


  • 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 (Mechanical Testing Laboratories)
Introduction to Bone Biomechanics and Mechanobiology

Freshman Design

Mechanics of Biological Tissues


Introduction to Bone Biomechanics and Mechanobiology
Introduction to Continuum Biomechanics