Recently I bought new running trainers – this entailed running on a treadmill in a shop window hoping nobody I knew was amongst the passers by. So why put myself through such a cheek-reddening fiasco? Well it was all to find trainers which suited my gait.
We all have different gaits and gait can be very informative, whether we’re trying to run faster, trying to prevent injury or even trying to detect disease. If someone has a neurological disease, their gait may be affected due to muscle weakness, muscle spasticity or neurodegeneration (lack of communication from the brain to the muscles). This is why we use gait analysis here in SITraN.
My current work includes the investigation of a new mouse model of Motor Neurone Disease, and to find out how representative these mice are of the human disease. One of the methods I’m using is called the catwalk (ironically). This is a very simple technique which we use to record footprints and subsequently analyse gait. We assign different colours to the right and left feet (red and green) and the front feet are brightly coloured, whilst the back feet are darker, as shown in the image below.
Normal mice tend to place their back feet where their front feet were, whereas disease mice don’t, they have a shorter stride and take far more steps over the same distance. This information allows us to assess whether the mice have any instability or spasticity, which may be signs of disease.
Luckily for the mice, they get their gait analysed in a darkened room rather than in a shop window where others can see them!
By Jodie Stephenson
Jodie is a 2nd year PhD student investigating translational biomarkers in pre-clinical models of Motor Neurone Disease. Jodie is supervised by Dr Richard Mead and is part of the Shaw Research Group.
You can follow Jodie on Twitter @neuroruncake, LinkedIn and ResearchGate.