Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States accounts for over 600,000 mortalities and $400 billion dollars in health related costs annually. If we can study vascular behavior in an in vivo mimicking environment, we can better understand how the roadblocks of chemical inflammation, elevated blood pressure, plaque formation and blood vessel narrowing contribute to cardiovascular disease.
The circulatory system contains a dense network of blood vessels, which are the highways that sustain underlying tissue by mediating the transfer of nutrients and removal of waste. These highways are lined with mechanosensing endothelial cells (ECs) that direct the travel of sustenance contained within the blood by acting as selective barriers.
One hallmark behavior of ECs is their ability to align and elongate in response to blood flow generated from heart contraction. By recapitulating this scenario in the lab using microfluidic (lab-on-a-chip) systems, ECs can be cultured in dynamic environments that circumvent the limitations of traditional in vitro culture platforms.
About the author: Quinton Smith is a third year graduate student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, studying the effects of physio-chemical cues governing stem cell behavior and maturation under the mentorship of Sharon Gerecht, associate professor.
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