In collaboration with the University of Central Florida and the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital, the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professor Mechanical Engineering Dr Eduardo Divo and Ph.D. Student Arka Das conducts research aimed at saving the lives of children born with only one functioning cardiac ventricle, a condition that deprives them of crucial oxygenation of the blood. Without surgery, people with this disease have no chance of survival.
The development of surgical procedures to save these children began around 30 years ago, but the death rate is still high, with only around 50 percent reaching the age of 20. One of the main challenges in designing effective interventions so far has been the variability between cases.
âEach case is different from the next,â Divo said. “Some parameters are true for all patients, but the conditions vary widely.”
Divo and Das have teamed up with Dr. William DeCampli, chief of cardio-thoracic surgery at the Arnold Palmer Hospital Heart Institute and professor at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine (UCF), and the Dr Alain Kassab, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Computational Mechanics Lab at UCF. Together, the team will optimize the design of each intervention using computer modeling based on fluid dynamics. Then, they will validate their results with a lab analysis using a dummy flow loop, which mechanically mimics the single-ventricular circulation process, developed by Divo and Das.
The fictitious flow loop “looks like a construction of Rube Goldberg,” DeCampli said, “but it allowed us to investigate and confirm some of the predictions arising from our intuition as well as our studies of computational fluid dynamics.” .
Their research is funded in part by philanthropy, including a recent grant from Additional Ventures, a non-profit organization that leverages evidence-based research and subject-matter expertise to make disproportionate impact.
Divo began collaborating in solving problems related to heart disease about 10 years ago, when he was a colleague of Dr Kassab. DeCampli was looking for a team to work on projects related to cardiovascular disease and recruited Divo. A collaboration began between UCF and the Orlando Health Heart Center / Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, and researchers produced a number of computational fluid dynamics-based innovations that were modifications of cardiovascular surgical procedures.
When Divo arrived at Embry-Riddle, the collaboration continued, DeCampli said, and Divo “tapped into the resources of the rich research environment out there to build our program.” Divo also enlisted Das to help with the research.
The latest project in the collaboration is designed to correct a problem encountered in previous surgeries in which children with a single chamber heart undergo a âFontan procedureâ at about three years of age to allow the single functional ventricle to recover. pump blood to the lungs and to the bodies. With this procedure, blood returning from the body is routed directly to the lungs rather than going through the heart first, which requires that the pressure in the body’s veins be increased to move the blood forward. Unfortunately, this can lead to excessive pressure and damage to organs such as the liver and kidneys.
Artificial pumps have been used to help blood flow and allow lower pressure in the veins, but they require an external source of energy, can develop blood clots, and may require replacement.
The new collaborative design solution uses a device called Injection Jet Shunt (IJS). It is not a mechanical pump, Divo said, and does not require any external power source, drawing on the own mechanical energy of the only functioning ventricle. A model of the device has been presented at engineering and medical conferences and has been tested with computational fluid dynamics and with the Embry-Riddle benchtop model, optimizing the mechanism to accommodate specific characteristics of patients. If the model continues to perform well in all of these test scenarios, it will be used in a human trial, DeCampli said.
âThe goal is to improve the quality and length of life of this struggling patient population,â DeCampli said. âThis type of project could not develop without the multidisciplinary teams created by Dr Kassab, Dr Divo and myself.
Divo said the collaboration with DeCampli has gone smoothly, in part because the surgeon is also trained as a physicist. DeCampli holds a degree in physics from MIT and a doctorate in theoretical astrophysics from Harvard.
âWe started working with Dr. DeCampli, and it was instant chemistry,â Divo said.
Das, who needs to get his doctorate. this spring says he enjoys the challenge of this research.
âResearch projects with difficult goals motivate me to perform better in my job,â said Das. âThese clinical research projects are more difficult, because the objectives here are not limited technical achievements but rather depend on clinical results. When performing these engineering analyzes, each step must meet clinical requirements, which makes these projects very difficult. ”
For her part, Divo said being able to provide such bioengineered solutions to help patients in need is extremely motivating.
âThis is one of the reasons I got into bioengineering,â Divo said. âEverything we do, from a research perspective, has an immediate social purpose. “
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