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Engineers Seek to Stem Heart Disease
February 12, 2010

Pavlos Vlachos, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech and director of the Advanced Experimental Thermofluid Engineering Research Laboratory, looks into a left ventricular simulator tank. The compliant silicone model left ventricle has two valves connecting the ventricle to the remaining working fluid outside of the tank. This closed loop system allows researchers to vary the stroke volume, heart rate, and pressures associated with a left ventricular filling to simulate the varying stages of diastolic dysfunction. John McCormick, Virginia Tech Photo.

Virginia Tech researcher Pavlos Vlachos and his students in the College of Engineering have a tall order to tackle: Stem the grim progression of heart disease, which kills hundreds of thousands of people each year in the United States alone.

Vlachos, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Advanced Experimental Thermofluid Engineering Research Laboratory, is waging this fight with what he calls his four children. That’s not a condescending term for his researchers, but a parental pride in the series of cardiac-related projects he’s working on. Prof. Vlachos literally treats these research projects as a parent would treat his or her children.

Their initiative areas are wide and include better understanding the flow of blood in and out of the heart; improving drug delivery and artery stents; and creating a system that can mimic the sounds of a diseased heart in order to develop sensors that, from vibrations, can form a diagnosis.

Each project is dedicated to reducing deaths from cardiovascular and coronary disease through noninvasive diagnostics and advanced therapies. Put it all together and, ultimately, Prof. Vlachos and his group aspire to develop a family of cardiovascular healthcare tools that are not limited to benchtop experiments but make the transition to bedside solutions to help patients and physicians.

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