Cardiovascular Engineering

Cardiovascular Engineering is motivated by the desire to understand the mechanisms of the cardiovascular system, particularly with respect to cardiovascular disease and microcirculation. Interests include cellular mechanotransduction, transport phenomenon, and vessel biomechanics.  Collaborations between faculty in this area allow for a true biomedical engineering approach to the field by combining mathematical modeling and experimentation. 

The following laboratories are within our Cardiovascular Engineering focus area:

 

Cardiovascular Dynamics and Biomolecular Transport Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Dr. John M. Tarbell

The Cardiovascular Dynamics and Biomolecular Transport Laboratory studies the role of fluid mechanics and transport processes in physiological and pathophysiological functions of the cardiovascular system.  They are aiming to understand influence of fluid dynamics in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis using cell culture models, in vitro studies and computer simulations. Major research focus areas include: (1) fluid mechanical force effects on vascular cells, including endothelial and smooth muscle cells, and cancer cells, (2) mechanotransduction with emphasis on the role of the glycocalyx, a cell surface proteoglycan layer, (3) endothelial permeability including transport pathways and responses to fluid shear stress, (4) mass transfer in the artery wall and the influence of cardiovascular mechanics.

Dr. Tarbell's current research interests fall into four basic areas: (1) effects of fluid mechanical forces on vascular cells (endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, fibroblasts) and cancer cells, (2) mechanotransduction, with emphasis on the role of the glycocalyx (cell surface proteoglycan layer), (3) studies of endothelial permeability including transport pathways and responses to fluid shear stress, (4) mass transfer in the artery wall, and the influence of cardiovascular mechanics. Dr. Tarbell’s group has pioneered in studies of fluid mechanical forces on vascular cells and the vascular transport barrier using in vitro, in vivo and mathematical modeling approaches and continues to extend the boundaries of knowledge in these areas today.

 

Microcirculation Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Dr. Bingmei Fu

The Microcirculation Laboratory focuses on microvessel permeability and angiogenesis, transvascular transport, cancer tumor cell migration and transport across the blood brain barrier (BBB).  Microvessel permeability mechanisms are characterized by in vivo measurements of intact single microvessels; permeability regulation is analyzed by mechanical, physical and chemical stimuli.  Such information serves to develop and test mathematical models of microvascular transport.  Transport across the BBB is being explored to analyze drug delivery mechanisms to the brain and cerebral spinal fluid through in vitro and in vivo models. 

The Microcirculation Laboratory focuses on structure-function of the microvessel wall  in health and disease. Current research includes the endothelial surface glycocalyx as a barrier to cancer cell adhesion and as a flow sensor; transvascular, transcellular and interstitial transport for water and solutes; signal transduction in endothelial cells under mechanical, chemical and physical stimuli; and regulation of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) by ultrasound and electrical stimuli. Intravital, confocal and multi-photon microscopy is employed to quantify the microvessel permeability, nitric oxide and Ca2+ production at individual microvessels in vivo. Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy (STORM) and confocal microscopy are used to characterize the nano-micro structure of the microvessel wall and endothelial monolayers. The observed information serves to develop and test mathematical models of microvascular transport in order to elucidate the underlying mechanisms.  The clinical applications are to inhibit tumor metastasis by strengthening the microvessel wall integrity and drug delivery to brain through the blood-brain barrier and cerebrospinal fluid.

 

Multiscale Biomechanics and Functional Imaging Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Dr. Luis Cardoso

The Multiscale Biomechanics and Functional Imaging Laboratory aims to integrate biomechanics, bioinstrumentation, signal and image processing to study health disorders in the osteoarticular and cardiovascular fields.  They are developing experimental, theoretical and numerical multiscale approaches to determine the biomechanical and functional competence of living tissues before and after their degeneration occurs using ultrasound, micro CT, finite element modeling and animal models.  Bone mechanical properties are studied with respect to bone mineral density, microarchitecture, and tissue quality at micro and macroscopic levels.  Additionally, mechanotransduction of osteocytes in bone is explored using animal models.  Cardiovascular research analyzes the rupture of thin caps of atherosclerotic blood vessels due to cellular level microcalcifications.  

 

Vascular and Orthopedic Tissue Engineering Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Dr. Gilda Barabino

The Vascular and Orthopedic Tissue Engineering Laboratory is focused on cellular and tissue responses to fluid mechanical forces and biochemical cues in the context of vascular disease and orthopedic tissue engineering.  Their interdisciplinary work incorporates biology, materials science and engineering toward novel therapeutic strategies to improve the health of individuals suffering with sickle cell disease and diseases associated with cartilage and bone damage.  Models recapitulating the environment within the body are analyzed in order to better understand the pathophysiology of such diseases and the appropriate strategies for treatment. Complementary animals models are used to bridge translation of such findings to human clinical practice.  

 

Professor Emeritus Dr. Sheldon Weinbaum

Dr. Weinbaum's primary approach to problems is through mathematical modeling and the application of principles of fluid and solid mechanics and mass transport, but always in close association with experimentalists and real data. He has made major contributions in developing the “leaky junction” theory of transendothelial transport and has pioneered a new understanding of the classical “Starling Law”. The latest work from the Weinbaum group addresses the critical problem of “vulnerable plaque” rupture in the coronary arteries, and has been done in collaboration with Dr. Luis Cardoso.