UTSA engineers win $1.8 million from National Institutes of Health for artery research

Vessel Research

Laboratory of UTSA Associate Professor Hai-Chao Han
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(April 8, 2010)--Researchers including UTSA associate professors of mechanical engineering Hai-Chao Han and Yusheng Feng and Merry Lindsey, associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC), have received a five-year, $1.8 million RO1 grant from the National Institutes of Health. The researchers will study the causes of arterial tortuosity, also known as artery twisting or curling.

The research will lead to treatments for varicose veins and twisted arteries. Varicose veins affect 25 million Americans and nearly half of all women, according to the National Institutes of Health. Twisted arteries are associated with atherosclerosis, which occurs when fatty tissue deposits cause hardened arteries and leads to coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.

In collaboration with researchers at UTHSC and Georgia Tech, Han's team will research how blood flow and pressure changes in the body contribute to arterial curling. Moreover, they will observe, quantify and model how an artery's cells and wall adapt to its new buckled state.

The NIH RO1 awards are reserved for proposals that present significant background research, making funding very difficult to win. Han is grateful for the help from his colleagues and staff, and is particularly proud of his student researchers who contributed to the baseline research reported in the proposal.

They include undergraduate engineering majors Cesar Fierro, Shawn Lamm and Rick Martinez; engineering graduate students Parag Datir and Yang Zhao; and biomedical engineering doctoral students Yong-Ung Lee, Avione Northcutt and Justin Garcia.

"I have been very fortunate to have a good group of students in my laboratory from year to year," says Han. "Both my undergraduates and my graduate students have made significant contributions to our laboratory's overall understanding of artery tortuosity. They are to be commended for their work and should be very proud our laboratory has received this funding."