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Math from the heart: Simulating stent design and coating
Date:8/23/2010

Suncica "Sunny" Canic was good at math in school, so that's what she pursued as a career. But she always liked medicine, too. When she moved to Houston, Texas, and met some cardiologists at a party, she started talking with them about what they doand knew she could help them.

"I realized we could provide them with a fluid dynamics and mechanics point of view to help them make decisions about, for example, which stent grafts they use in their procedures," she says.

Stents are tiny mesh tubes made from metal alloys that hold blood vessels open after they've been clogged with disease-causing plaque. Even though stents are designed to be compatible with the human body, they sometimes cause unwanted reactions, such as blood clots and scar tissue formation. So scientists have tried to coat stents with cells that make the tiny tubes even more compatible.

But these, too, aren't yet perfect, says Canic. Blood flowing over a coated stent can still clot or tear cells away. This is, as Canic puts it, "not good."

A professor of mathematics at the University of Houston, Canic makes computer models to guide the search for a better stent coating. She also uses computer models to study the strengths and weaknesses of different stent structures. Supported by a joint grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation, her work could help manufacturers optimize stent design and help doctors choose the right stents for their patients, ultimately improving patient outcomes.

Computer scientists usually model stents in three dimensions. Keeping track of about 200,000 points, or nodes, along the stent mesh, the models are massive. Together with a collaborator at the University of Zagreb in Croatia, Canic wrote a much simpler program that approximates stents as meshes of one-dimensional rods. It let them achieve the same result using just 400 node
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Contact: Emily Carlson
carlsone@nigms.nih.gov
301-496-7301
NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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