WPI researcher awarded grant for analysis into main reason behind aortic valve dysfunction

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) researcher Kristen Billiar has been awarded a $154,000 grant from the American Coronary heart Affiliation to find out how cell loss of life results in calcium deposits in coronary heart tissue that trigger aortic valves to fail.

The 2-year mission will contain laboratory experiments with cells grown in flat and three-dimensional shapes, and it’ll goal to find methods to interrupt the method that results in calcification and coronary heart valve illness. The incidence and severity of aortic valve calcifications enhance with age, and there’s no solution to treatment the illness. As a substitute, a affected person usually undergoes surgical procedure to restore or substitute the valve.

“We do not know why calcific nodules kind, however one of many issues correlated with it’s programmed cell loss of life,” mentioned Billiar, who’s professor and head of the division of biomedical engineering. “We will use engineering methods in reproducible experiments and see calcium depositing in cells prefer it does in valves. Now we need to know, what are the mechanisms concerned in that?”

Programmed cell loss of life, often known as apoptosis, is a standard course of through which a cell self-destructs and breaks aside within the physique in a managed manner that avoids an immune response. Some researchers hypothesize that the remnants of apoptotic cells function aggregation websites for calcium within the cusps of aortic valves, resulting in nodules that intrude with the traditional opening and shutting of the valve in a pumping coronary heart. The aortic valve is the ultimate valve within the coronary heart, opening in order that blood can go away the center and start its journey by means of the physique.

Billiar, whose analysis has targeted on the way in which teams of cells mechanically pull on one another within the physique, will measure calcification in animal coronary heart cells cultured flat on gels. He additionally will develop a solution to present calcification in tiny spherical teams of cells and examine how calcifications kind on apoptotic our bodies.

“We expect the cells themselves are actively taking part in a job in calcification,” Billiar mentioned. “If we are able to work out how, we are able to begin occupied with therapies that might cease them from what they’re doing.”

WPI graduate pupil Mahvash Jebeli will work on the mission with Billiar, who expects this system to finally present analysis alternatives for greater than a dozen undergraduates beneath WPI’s project-based curriculum.

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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