Heart to beat: vascular dynamics in the lab

When you use water from the tap in your kitchen, you will not quite notice it, but the effect is there: the water pressure in the pipes connected to your kitchen will slightly change the radius of the pipe through which the water is flowing. The effect is small, as the typical water pressure is just over a bar and the modulus of a decent steel or PVC pipe is more than a GigaPascal: there are about four orders of magnitude difference between these pressure scales. Such a difference in pressure scales is not always there: many biological tissues deform measurably from to the pumping of a heart: that is why you can take your pulse. Now consider the well-known fact that the flow resistance of a tube varies with the radius of the tube to the fourth power, and you get an idea that interesting things may happen in this elastohydrodynamic coupling. Indeed, the coupling of the elastic deformation and flow dynamics can produce many interesting effects, even of biological relevance. For example: the coupling of such dynamics serves as a frequency filter: the human aorta flexes with every heartbeat, yet the small veins in your fingers do not show any sign of pulsatile motion. How does this frequency filtering emerge? Can we simulate this in an experiment without having to faint from all the blood?

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In this project you explore this question using microfluidics, flowpumps, pressure measurements from sensors and possibly video analysis. This project is a collaboration with Vittorio Saggiomo from across the street in the BioNanoTechnology Group, and with the Katifori group at UPenn across the Atlantic ocean: http://web.sas.upenn.edu/katifori/