Academics and Research

Biomechanic Lab works to improve treatment of cardiovascular diseases

Ali Azadani's Cardiac Biomechanic Lab is supported by the full-time research of one postdoc, two PhD students and three master’s students, as well as an array of computational and experimental tools, many of them custom designed for the lab. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Ali Azadani, right, and PhD student Mohammed Barakat work with the pulse duplicator in DU’s Cardiac Biomechanic Lab. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Ali Azadani, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Material Engineering, has spent the last two years building one of the most state-of-the-art labs in the country to improve the understanding, treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

Azadani is head of DU’s Cardiac Biomechanic Lab, which is working to improve the long-term durability and efficacy of transcatheter aortic valves. These artificial valves can be installed through a minimally invasive procedure, but application is limited to older patients due to device lifetime issues. Azadani hopes his research will help enable the extension of this procedure to younger populations. The cardiovascular lab is also voyaging into tissue engineering by utilizing 3-D printing technology to manufacture alternative aortic valves.

“I was a postdoc at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine, and this research was initiated there,” Azadani says. “When I joined DU, I continued my work on transcatheter heart valves.”

At DU, Azadani is supported by the full-time research of one postdoc, two PhD students and three master’s students, as well as an array of computational and experimental tools, many of them custom designed for the Cardiac Biomechanic Lab.

“One thing that we started here at DU that I’m really excited about is that we developed an isolated beating-heart platform,” he says. “We obtain fresh pig hearts from a local slaughterhouse that would otherwise dispose of them, we cool them down, and through some procedures we bring them back to the lab and we re-animate them. We introduce oxygen, glucose, everything they need, then they start beating. A heart will beat for about an hour on its own, and we can test medical devices in it.”

Other equipment at the lab includes a pulse duplicator that replicates a human heartbeat and a stretching device that measures the effects of stretch and strain on soft tissue.

“Once we obtain the mechanical properties of soft tissue, we can use them in our computational simulations to develop specimen-specific computational models. What we are to trying to do is to modify the design in a way that [the valves] work longer,” Azadani says, adding that the FDA then uses the lab’s data to determine whether the valves are safe and effective.

In addition to running the cardiac lab, Azadani also serves on DU’s Faculty Senate and teaches graduate-level classes in biofluids and biomechanics.

“I love it,” he says of teaching. “As an assistant professor, you have to do research and teach. I think that is the best combination. When you teach, you also learn.”

 

One Comment

  1. Haydeh Naeini says:

    outstanding achievements in research.

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