Fluid Mechanics of the Cardiovascular System: Interesting, Impossible Problems in Biology, Physics, and Math
Abstract. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and biologists and medical researchers have spent literally hundreds of years studying its prevention and treatment. Over the past 20 years, a new research perspective on cardiovascular disease has emerged and grown as hemodynamics (fluid mechanics of blood flow) has been decisively linked to health and growth of cells in the heart and blood vessels. Scientists have approached the field of cardiovascular fluid mechanics from many angles. There are macro-scale flow simulations and in vitro experiments mimicking flow through blood vessels (with various degrees of realism), microfluidic studies of single-cell dynamics in flows, and various in vivo studies involving measurements in both human patients and animal models. Many of these studies have produced data that provide evidence for new, meaningful connections between flow and cardiovascular health. However, uncovering fundamental truths about the link between hemodynamics and cardiovascular disease is challenging because it is difficult to create an accurate model of a system as complex as the human circulatory system. Additionally, the measurements that can be made safely on a living human or animal are limited. This talk will be presented in three parts. First, basics of fluid mechanics in the cardiovascular system will be discussed. Next, a few specific research projects in this area will be covered, including vessel wall cell responses to healthy and unhealthy flows, oxygen transport in aneurysms, and nanoparticle transport in tumors. Finally, some general, open-ended problems in cardiovascular fluid mechanics which also apply to areas outside of this field will be explained through a short, facilitated discussion.
Bio. Tufts University Assistant Professor Erica Kemmerling holds a B.S. in Physics and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. Her graduate work focused on the dynamics of magnetic particles moving through the bloodstream for applications in magnetic drug targeting. Her postdoctoral work at Stanford University School of Medicine involved developing a medical imaging system for a new radiation therapy device. Her current research at Tufts addresses problems at the intersection of mechanical engineering and medicine, focusing on fluid flow and heat transfer in the human body. Her research group, the Tufts Body Flow Lab, uses simulations and experiments to develop realistic models of the circulatory and respiratory systems. Erica is originally from Chicago and currently lives in Arlington, MA with her husband and baby daughter.