Genomic Engineering Group / InteLAB
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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Computational fluid dynamics as a biomedical developing tool

Computational fluid dynamics (CFD), when allied to well designed experiments is a powerful tool in for flow modeling and simulation. CFD software is becoming more complex though easier to be used, even for those that are considered non initiated. CFDs interfaces and other usually companion computer-aided design and visualization packages lets us build complex geometries and visualize and predict physical phenomena related to the flow of virtually any substance.

Computational fluid dynamics has been widely used in medical, pharmaceutical, and biomedical applications, such as 

  • ·         manufacturing processes
  • ·         device performance
  • ·         physiological flows
  • ·         fluid-structure interactions
  • ·         effectiveness of drug delivery systems
One of the greatest applications of CFD in the biomedical area is related to the study of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a generic term used to describe the artery wall thickening and hardening and is nowadays one of the leading causes of death in the developed world.

Advanced stages of occlusive vascular disease can produce severe arterial stenosis requiring clinical intervention. The primary form of intervention includes bypass grafting, balloon angioplasty and stent deployment. However, bypass surgery by nature is a very invasive procedure requiring longer hospital stays and greater recovery time. Both angioplasty and stent deployment can be performed using minimally invasive catheter techniques. Hence, they rapidly become common practice. 

The primary function of a stent is to provide scaffolding to hold the arterial lumen opened and preserve an adequate cylindrical lumen for blood flow. It is estimated that the total stent market is over US$ 5 billion per year.

Nonetheless, even with all clinical potential and the development already accomplished, stent design has significant scientific and technological challenges, since as a stent is placed into the vascular system, the surface and the material characteristics influence its reaction with the blood.

Our group is developing integrated mathematical models to simulate blood flow and its interactions in vascular systems using CFD techniques. Efforts are being made mainly to analyze flow patterns and mass transfer aspects in drug eluting stents (DES) and to evaluate the influence of these structures in the arterial tissue. The research includes numerical studies of verification and validation of models and CFD methods.

The first study in the Genomic Engineering Group was carried out to analyze flow patterns near the stent structure. Flow visualization was employed through the use of CFD methods and allowed to elucidate flow patterns details near the arterial wall. Results provided a better understanding about the way the lumen flow is affected by the proximal and distal flows inside the stented site, and how these flow patterns can be related to the atherosclerosis disease.

Research in progress intends to integrate results obtained from the CFD model with a cell cycle model, implemented in Matlab®, which aims to represent the pharmacological action on the arterial tissue.
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