Simulations of the Heart

As his senior research project, bioengineering student Stuart Loertscher is fixing problems of the heart with Lucas Timmins, the principal investigator at the Cardiovascular Pathomechanics Laboratory, a multidisciplinary group of researchers studying the role of biomechanics in cardiovascular disease.

Using FEBio, a finite-element modeling software developed by the University of Utah’s Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute and Department of Bioengineering, Loertscher is among the first to begin researching ways to simulate arteries around the heart. Plaque accumulation on artery walls restricts blood flow to the heart and can rupture, leading to a heart attack.

“The problem is complicated,” said Loertscher, an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program student leader. “The heart isn’t simple. Trying to understand all those complexities makes it hard to create a model to mimic what the heart is doing.”

Eventually, Loertscher’s project could become the new way to predict which plaques are more prone to rupture so that physicians can intervene prior to a fatal event. “The software was developed here, and it has so many potential applications in biology,” Loertscher said. “Saving lives is every bioengineer’s dream.”

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