Coronary heart disease accounts for 18% of deaths in the United States every year. The disease results from a blockage of one or more arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. This occurs as a result of a complex inflammatory condition called artherosclerosis, which leads to progressive buildup of fatty plaque near the surface of the arterial wall.
In a paper published last month in the SIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics, authors Sean McGinty, Sean McKee, Roger Wadsworth, and Christopher McCormick devise a mathematical model to improve currently-employed treatments of coronary heart disease (CHD).
"CHD remains the leading global cause of death, and mathematical modeling has a crucial role to play in the development of practical and effective treatments for this disease," says lead author Sean McGinty. "The use of mathematics allows often highly complex biological processes and treatment responses to be simplified and written in terms of equations which describe the key parameters of the system. The solution of these equations invariably provides invaluable insight and understanding that will be crucial to the development of better treatments for patients in the future."
The accumulation of plaque during CHD can result in chest pain, and ultimately, rupture of the artherosclerotic plaque, which causes blood clots blocking the artery and leading to heart attacks. A common method of treatment involves inserting a small metallic cage called a stent into the occluded artery to maintain blood flow.
However, upon insertion of a stent, the endotheliumthe thin layer of cells that lines the inner surface of the arterycan be severely damaged. The inflammatory response triggered as a result of this damage leads to excessive proliferation and migration of smooth muscle cells (cells in the arterial wall that are involved in physiology and pathology) leading to re-blocking of the artery. This is an important limitation
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Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics