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Building a Better Artery: Pitt engineering researcher receives American Heart Association fellowship to design better vascular grafts

PITTSBURGH (March 10, 2014) … Although the development of artificial vascular grafts has advanced, one of the drawbacks is a high rate of aneurysms, which lead to rupture and massive bleeding. However, engineers at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering are exploring the use of new polymers in arterial replacements to better prevent aneurysm formation as they remodel into 'neoarteries.'

Arturo Valentin, PhD, is the recipient of an American Heart Association Great Rivers Affiliate Postdoctoral Fellowship for "A predictive computational tool for creating tissue engineered arteries" (Award Period: January 1, 2014- December 31, 2015). Dr. Valentin is a postdoctoral researcher with a focus on mechanobiology in the Swanson School's Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.

"The development of artificial vascular grafts holds tremendous promise for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, especially since the ability to transplant healthy grafts is often limited by availability or immune rejection," Dr. Valentin explained. "Artificial grafts are designed to degrade as the body naturally repairs the artery, but if the graft dissolves too quickly there is a greater risk of aneurysm. We want to determine the exact way in which this degradation rate affects the chemical and mechanical factors which control how living cells transform grafts into neoarteries."

Dr. Valentin notes that by studying the underlying biological mechanisms at work in neoartery formation, researchers can develop a more effective graft that reduces risk of aneurysms. "This AHA fellowship will support our research to build replacement arteries utilizing advanced synthetic polymers as grafts that better treat patients with peripheral artery disease or who must undergo cardiac bypass surgery." Dr. Valentin believes that over the next several years his research will move to clinical trials in humans and "ultimately help bring much improved arterial replacements to patients."

Dr. Valentin's faculty mentors for the fellowship are Anne M. Robertson, PhD , Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering; Yadong Wang, PhD , the William K. Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering; and Paolo Zunino, PhD , Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.

About Dr. Valentin
Dr. Valentin's research interests include cardiovascular biomechanics, biological growth and remodeling, mechanics of biomaterials, tissue engineering, cardiovascular physiology and pathologies, arterial mechanics, finite elasticity, continuum mechanics, and finite element analysis. His previous awards and honors include the 2013 Young Researcher Prize in Biomechanics from the 4th Canadian Conference on Nonlinear Solid Mechanics; a Whitaker International Scholarship (2009); Sloan Scholarship (2007-2009); and NSF GK-12 Fellowship (2002-2003). He received his BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Carolina, and his PhD in biomedical engineering from Texas A&M University.


Contact: Paul Kovach