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NIH grant awarded to Song, Prakash and Castro to study blood vessel structure and function

Research by a team of engineers from The Ohio State University Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering aims to establish a fundamental understanding of blood vessel permeability, which could ultimately improve ways to limit excessive blood vessel growth during disease.

Co-led by mechanical engineering Assistant Professor Jonathan Song and mechanical engineering Associate Professors Shaurya Prakash and Carlos Castro, the researchers were awarded a $1.7 million grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to investigate the biomechanical mechanisms that control the remodeling of blood vessels.

Shaurya Prakash (right), with mechanical engineering student Kaushik Rangharajan.“To me,” says Song, “this project represents an ideal collaboration that both leverages and aligns the respective strengths of our labs toward addressing very important questions in biomedical science.”

Many diseases of the body involve the excessive growth of blood vessels, called pathological angiogenesis. It is believed that such growth is initially triggered by fluid forces—in this case leakage of blood plasma across the wall of the blood vessel. The target of this research is to establish an awareness of the role of endothelial cells—the cells of the blood vessel walls—in order to provide baseline knowledge for developing strategies for controlling the pathological angiogenesis.

While current research has proposed numerous ways in which fluid forces against the endothelial cells cause blood vessels to form and remodel, a complete model of such interactions does not exist. Having a systematic framework would provide a foundation for researchers to discover methods of controlling angiogenesis, which often happens during inflammation, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Castro describes the significance of the group’s studies. “This interdisciplinary collaboration brings a unique integration of nanomechanical devices with microscale systems for mimicking biological environments to study fundamental aspects of vascular function and investigate life-saving technologies and procedures to address some of today’s most prevalent pathologies," he says.

During the four-year project the research team will accurately engineer in vitro platforms to systematically study and develop a comprehensive model of the fluid forces impacting vascular remodeling and permeability, including blood vessel architecture. Completion of these studies will help establish a new standard for controlling angiogenesis, which will benefit the treatment of vascular diseases.

Jonathan Song (center) and mechanical engineering students Ehsan Akbari and Melika Shahhosseini.A unique feature of this NIH grant combines the researchers’ three complementary areas of expertise.

“I am excited to work on this interdisciplinary project that brings together diverse intellectual capabilities,” says Prakash.

Prakash’s expertise in the project focuses on nanofluidics and electron microscopy, while Song leads in areas related to microfluidics and angiogenesis and Castro brings his knowledge of DNA nanotechnology and nanoscale force spectroscopy.

“Moreover, working with passionate and scientifically curious students makes this project even more fun,” Prakash continues. “We are already seeing positive impact of the collaborative research environment for our students on related projects.”

Mechanical engineering PhD student Ehsan Akbari is contributing to the project. Along with Ohio State co-authors, including Prakash, he has already published the team’s initial discoveries and background work for the project.

Additional contributers to the project include Ohio State Presidential Fellow Kaushik Rangharajan, mechanical engineering PhD student; Melika Shahhosseini, graduate student in mechanical engineering; and Griffin Spychalski, a senior honors student majoring in biomedical engineering and recipient of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.

by Holly Henley, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Communications, henley.53@osu.edu

“Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Heart, Lung, And Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01HL141941. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.”