BRIGE awards maintain global competitiveness by increasing the diversity of ENG researchers, who are initiating research programs early in their careers. BRIGE awards further the broaden participation of engineering researchers by increasing the number of engineering graduates, by improving the representation of women and minorities in engineering, and by understanding how to improve recruitment and retention of engineering students.

This BRIGE project will research mechanical circulatory assist for single ventricles for patients affected by congenital heart defects. Single ventricle heart defects are the leading cause of death among birth defects in the first year of life. Those patients who survive surgical palliation, which is achieved in three separate, staged operations, face lifelong physical limitations and morbidity. The end result of surgical palliation is a ?man-made? physiology, which consists of a single functional ventricle to drive blood flow through the systemic circulation and no right ventricle to pump venous return through the lungs. The compliant venous circulation must adapt to a higher pressure for blood to flow passively through the lungs. Researchers have recently theorized that a pump designed to augment flow from through the cavopulmonary connection would reverse the pathophysiology of the univentricular circulation. While no blood pump is currently available for cavopulmonary assist, researchers are aggressively pursuing various designs for this application. Two fundamental questions, however, have not been addressed: 1) which type of blood pump is ideal for cavopulmonay assist, and 2) what biofluid dynamic conditions are superior for pressure augmentation in the cavopulmonary connection. To address these questions, the PI plans to conduct a study 1) characterizing the interaction of blood pumps in a simulated cavopulmonary connection using boundary conditions of pre-swirl and post-swirl, continuous and physiologic puslatile flow dynamics; 2) performing laser measurements in a prototype of the cavopulmonary connection and a selected blood pump configuration to validate numerical predictions; and 3) conducting a blood bag experiment to measure the hemolytic levels produced from the interaction of the cavopulomonary connection and mechanical assist. The PI will use Computational Fluid Dynamic modeling, quantitative laser flow measurements, and hemolysis testing to help resolve critical questions regarding mechanical assist to patients with failing single ventricle physiology. The combination of intravascular intervention and biological tissue engineering offers considerable and multiple advantages in the development of new biodevices with the superior characteristics of hydraulic efficiency, percutaneous placement, and biocompatibility.

The PI seeks to enhance participation of women and minority students at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) by providing an opportunity to work on a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional bioengineering research project addressing a complex and significant human health problem. Since the VCU School of Engineering is located in a multicultural urban setting, the PI will recruit students from underrepresented minorities to work on this project. The PI will also actively recruit underrepresented students through VCU?s Office of Minority Affairs. The PI will integrate the project design approach and concepts into a freshman level course and will disseminate the research results through journal and conference publications with student authorship.

This BRIGE grant will broaden the participation of and increase opportunities for all engineers including those from groups underrepresented in the engineering disciplines. This BRIGE grant will also encourage the PI to become actively and competitively engaged in research as an independent investigator.

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Virginia Commonwealth University
United States
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