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Advancing traffic safety through the investigation of human tolerance to impact

Final Report Summary - BIO-ADVANCE (Advancing traffic safety through the investigation of human tolerance to impact)

The Research Executive Agency (REA) representing the European Commission and the University of Zaragoza (UNIZAR) agreed to co-fund the project titled "Advancing traffic safety through the investigation of human tolerance to impact" (BIO-ADVANCE), under the Support for training and career development of researchers (Marie Curie) program (FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IIF, Grant Agreement Number 299298).

The main objective of BIO-ADVANCE was to develop and implement a research program involving Post Mortem Human Subjects PMHS testing at the University of Zaragoza while investigating on the 6-dof kinematics of the human spine in pure frontal and oblique impacts. The best proof of the success of the research was to complete a number of experiments with PMHS before the end of the project. More specifically, the project entitled to perform PMHS tests to understand the kinematics of the human spine under seat belt loading and to establish the necessary infrastructure (including procedures and protocols to ensure the utmost respect for Ethics) so that such research could be carried out at the facilities of the University of Zaragoza.

First activities within BIO-ADVANCE consisted of establishing links to other institutions in Spain that could provide support in obtaining Post Mortem donors that could be acceptable for the research to be performed at the University of Zaragoza. Instead of creating a new body donor program, researchers at TESSA (the crash test facility of UNIZAR) joined existing programs in Spain. This programs had been already assessed by the corresponding authorities and showed a long-time record of successfully implementing body donors management and handling. To ensure the protection of the donor's rights at all times, donors (or next-of-kin) were explicitly asked to participate in the research to be performed at TESSA. In addition, TESSA established its own Oversight Committee that met in September 2013 and provided its unanimous agreement to TESSA's procurement and handling of donated bodies. The Oversight Committee was formed by a variety of people including Government and University representatives, industry representatives, experts on Ethics and coordinators of donor programs from other institutions in Spain. Last, the procedure established in BIO-ADVANCE was also submitted to the assessment of the CEICA, the Clinical Research Ethics Assessment Commission of Aragon, whose assessment is valid in the whole country. CEICA evaluated positively (from the Ethical point of view) the activities to be performed in BIO-ADVANCE in March 2014.

In parallel, TESSA's facilities needed to be updated to make them capable of performing PMHS testing. A state-of-the-art preparation room was built so that body preparation and post-test injury assessment could be done at TESSA. The preparation room can host eight frozen and four refrigerated specimens. A research agreement was signed with the Hospital MAZ (Zaragoza) and the hospital provided instrumentation and equipment (including a portable X-ray machine) to the preparation room. In addition to the preparation room, a 10-camera VICON system was acquired and installed in the sled room to capture the 3D motion of the sled occupants during the impact. The generous contribution of the IAF, the Infrastructure Institute of the Regional Aragonian Government, made possible to undertake these renovations. With this capabilities, TESSA became the only crash test laboratory capable of performing PMHS test and to record the 3D kinematics of occupant surrogates during a high-speed impact.

As an essential part of the Marie Curie IIF program, a successful collaboration was established with the Center for Applied Biomechanics of the University of Virginia (UVA), the institution from which the incoming researcher graduated. It would have been not possible to complete the tasks proposed in BIO-ADVANCE without the guidance and assistance of the researchers from UVA. The research methodology used in BIO-ADVANCE matched the one from UVA, making possible to exchange research results and to grow the body of knowledge about the behavior of the human body during the impact. This cooperation is shown by the multiple publications co-authored by TESSA and UVA researchers in the period 2012-2014.

In the BIO-ADVANCE proposal, it was mentioned the intention of involving the industry in the research program so that the society at large could benefit from the results obtained in the project. Through the participation in the Oversight Committee of the project, one of the leading automotive restraint manufacturers worldwide has cooperated with the research carried out within BIO-ADVANCE. The project has benefited from using state-of-the-art technologies (including the most advanced existing dummy, the THOR, and innovative restraint systems that are expected to be in the market in the near future). The cooperation with this company has allowed the project to surpass the research objectives proposed initially, as the outcome from the project will inform the design of these restraint systems, increasing the impact of the project. As a result, TESSA has prepared and submitted a proposal for an Initial Training Network to the call H2020-MSCA-ITN-2014 in cooperation with the company. Also, TESSA has become part of consortia applying for funding to several Horizon 2020 calls, focusing its activities in performing PMHS testing.

The following lines summarize the research contents developed within BIO-ADVANCE:
- Establishing agreements with the existing donor programs of the University of Castille-La Mancha (UCLM) and the company Scientific Anatomy.
- Creating its own protocol for the handling of human tissue.
- Training of TESSA personnel to ensure the right handling of human tissue, including Ethics and personal protective procedures.
- Building a preproom dedicated to the preparation of the bodies and to the assessment of the experiment outcome.
- Upgrading the available instrumentation, including a 3D motion capture system.
- Performing 19 dummy tests using the THOR with three different types of restraints (seat belts). One of the restraints was a prototype concept, not in production yet.
- Performing four PMHS tests to assess the performance of three different seat belts.
- Publishing four papers in indexed journals.
- Participating in five international conferences on automotive safety.
- Dissemination activities: collaboration in national and international radio shows, several interviews in local and national newspapers, participation in national TV shows, collaborating in research and industry meetings in Zaragoza, participating in encounters with Engineering students to explain the research carried out within BIO-ADVANCE, explanation of project activities to associations of tissue donors, promoting the Marie Curie actions by meeting with prospective candidates, etc...

All these contents are described in detail in the following pages. Note that this final report includes the results reported in the mid-term report already submitted to the ERA in July 2013, but expands the information contained in that report to reflect the progress of the project during the second year.

In summary, the initially proposed objectives for BIO-ADVANCE have been achieved successfully during the duration of the project. As for the research planned, even though some of the contents were updated during the evolution of the project, the outcome of the research performed in the project has achieved a larger impact due to the closer cooperation with industry. For further information about the outcome of BIO-ADVANCE, please contact Dr. Francisco J. Lopez-Valdes at fjlv@unizar.es