Vitaly Kheyfets, PhD, Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Bioengineering has received the American Thoracic Society Cordelia’s Pediatric PH Research and Mentoring Award (Robyn J. Barst Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension fund). Pulmonary Hypertension is a disease associated with an increase in pulmonary arterial pressure, which leads to heart failure in both adults and children. Endothelial cells, arterial cells that are in contact with blood, are partially responsible for regulating blood flow by releasing chemicals that dilate the vessel to maintain normal pressure. The friction forces of passing blood must remain high in order for them to work properly.
Previous studies have shown that these forces are decreased in pulmonary hypertension. However, no one knows why the force is decreased or exactly what it does to the cells when they are in the body. One experiment, where these cells were isolated from the body, showed that decreasing this force caused the cells to change shape and function. This study proposes a two-step approach: (1) develop a mathematical model of the pulmonary arteries and blood flow to determine what causes the force acting on the cells to decrease; and (2) perform biochemical analysis of the blood to see what impact this decrease has had on the endothelial cells.
While PH is more prominent among children, most ongoing research is targeted towards adults. Successfully carrying out this project could lead to 3 important developments: (1) understanding the mechanical cause of blood flow forces on endothelial cells; (2) identifying the biochemical result of cells that are subjected to abnormal flow conditions in children; and (3) creating a blood test to determine the health of the artery in children.