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Similarities of pumping blood and oil examined

HOUSTON (Nov. 30, 2009) Scientists and engineers from two of the nation's largest industries medicine and energy will come together Dec. 7 with leading academicians to explore the synergies in moving oil and pumping blood.

Much like moving oil through a pipeline, the heart must pump blood through the body. Both systems need clean, well-functioning pipes (or blood vessels), free of blockages or corrosion, to function efficiently. Both industries also are crucial to our nation's economy and future. Sponsored by ExxonMobil, the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center and University of Houston, the Pumps & Pipes III conference will share new technologies, stimulate discussion, and spark ideas among experts in the petroleum, medical and imaging industries that face similar challenges, even if on a very different scale.

"Today engineers are talking to medical researchers about using nanoparticles to sort stem cells," said Alan Lumsden, M.D., co-director of Pumps & Pipes, medical director of the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center and chair of the department of cardiovascular surgery at The Methodist Hospital. "An engineer who specializes in cleaning oil spills thought of it during a discussion at the last Pumps & Pipes conference. It's amazing the ideas that flow when energy and medicine experts get together. The interaction sparks ideas that would never have materialized if we stayed in the medical center and they stayed in the oil field."

Pumps & Pipes III: Better Together will have speakers in the morning sessions from medicine, energy, and academia discussing use of advanced nanotechnology, robotics and distant monitoring in common issues like pipeline corrosion and blood vessel integrity. The afternoon sessions will feature new discussions on pipes and fluids, a concept that spawned joint oil and medicine ideas in the past when Methodist researchers looking at preventing aneurysms gained a new perspective of blood flow dynamics from pipeline engineers who used fluid dynamics to predict pipeline ruptures. Talks will focus on managing imperfect pipes, next-generation intelligent conduits, and advanced materials for energy and medicine. The presentations are designed to offer common language and terminology to all parties, as well as provide a platform to discuss the hurdles facing each discipline.

"Health and energy are two initiatives launched recently by the UH System Chancellor and President Renu Khator. These initiatives build on the strengths of world-renowned UH scientists and engineers. Collaboration with the medical and oil industry is an essential component of solving complex interdisciplinary challenges," said Ioannis Kakadiaris, Ph.D., co-director of Pumps & Pipes and Eckhard Pfeiffer Professor of Computer Science at UH. "The Pumps & Pipes initiative brings industry and academia together in a unique way, leveraging UH's research strengths in areas such as biomedical image computing, computer-assisted intention and nanomaterials, and allows innovators to share ideas and develop solutions."

The keynote speaker will be venture capitalist Joe Cunningham, M.D., whose company, Sant Ventures, invests in early-stage life science and healthcare companies. Sant Ventures is one of the largest and most experienced biotech venture capital firms in Texas. Closing remarks will be offered by UH System Chancellor and President Dr. Renu Khator.

"This year's Better Together theme follows The Other Guy's Toolkit theme of Pumps & Pipes II," said William E. Kline, PhD, co-director of Pumps & Pipes, ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company. "By imagining together, we bring together the power of countless years of innovation, not to mention the stamp of Houston, Texas, to some of the world's most important issues."

The conference will be held at UH's Texas Learning and Computation Center from 7:30 a.m. 6:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 7, 2009, in Philip G. Hoffman Hall, Room 232. Directions are available at


Contact: Melissa Carroll
University of Houston

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