Blood flow studies in normal and diseased arteries in relation to early vascular changes and paediatric obesity

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Biomedical Engineering


Paediatric obesity has recently taken epidemic proportions worldwide, becoming one of this century's major challenges. Originally a high-income countries' problem, obesity at young age is now prevailing also in low- and middle-income countries. Increased levels of blood cholesterol and early cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are-among other health problems-, the first clinical symptoms that disparate overweight from normal-weight children. In addition, the likelihood of overweight children to remain obese in adulthood is high, along with an associated increased propensity for developing high-risk CVDs and other chronic non-communicable diseases, which in turn may increase the risk for premature death. Tackling paediatric obesity is a priority in recent UK policies, in line with European and worldwide strategic priorities.
Primarily a dietary disease, obesity is believed to accelerate the initiation and progression of endothelial dysfunction, one of the early biological markers for atherosclerotic lesions that underlie most cardiovascular diseases. Lesion distribution varies in space within the arterial network and it is yet unclear why the endothelium is at times prone or immune to disease, particularly with increasing age. Evidence of lipid accumulation can first be detected at the intima layer of the systemic arteries as early as the age of three. Well-established medical imaging modalities, such as high-resolution ultrasonography and magnetic resonance imaging, allow for the non-invasive assessment of fatty streak deposition in paediatric practice. Several markers have been proposed to help the clinical assessment of endothelial damage in high-risk patients. In obese children, arterial changes can painlessly be evaluated with measurements of the aortic and carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) and flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) of the brachial, radial and femoral arteries. Pulse wave analysis is additionally utilised to assess arterial stiffness, distensibility and compliance.
In this research project, both experimental and mathematical modelling methods will be used to assess early vascular changes in paediatrics, in relation to childhood obesity. The information from these studies will be examined and the data between normal and diseased arteries will then be compared. This will later allow patient-specific numerical simulations to be performed and the quality of blood flow through arterial vessels to be analysed. This diagnostic tool will be fundamental in monitoring obesity-induced vascular changes in the young population.
The project is highly multi-disciplinary within the broad fields of Biomedical Engineering, Fluid Mechanics, and Paediatric Medicine. The named candidate will gain expertise in biofluid dynamics methods and be in close collaboration with paediatric cardiac surgeons from the Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow, who have an extended and proven experience in working with engineers for the development of new medical technologies.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R513349/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2023
2104390 Studentship EP/R513349/1 01/10/2018 31/03/2022 Lauren Johnston