UCI Biomedical Engineer Receives $1.5 Million Grant to Quantify the Effect of High Blood Pressure on the Heart

Irvine, Calif., July 16, 2003 — UC Irvine biomedical engineer Ghassan Kassab has been awarded a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the effect of high blood pressure and increased blood flow on the heart.

Kassab plans to create a mathematical model showing how coronary arteries respond to conditions like high blood pressure. The research eventually may help doctors to more precisely identify the role of high blood pressure and blood flow overload in heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

"Coronary arteries respond to high blood pressure and overload by changing their shape, what we refer to as remodeling," said Kassab, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering in The Henry Samueli School of Engineering at UCI. "We hope to learn more about the exact mechanics of the remodeling process by looking at changes in the collagen and elastin fibers in the arteries and by looking at how plaque forms."

Untreated high blood pressure damages the lining of the arteries, enabling fat and calcium to build up and form a plaque. The artery becomes narrowed and stiff, a condition called atherosclerosis, which reduces blood flow. Over time, decreased blood flow to certain organs in the body can cause damage leading to heart attack or stroke.

Kassab hopes that by quantifying the changes in the arteries, they might be able to predict key risk factors for heart attack.