Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a debilitating vascular disease with a prevalence estimated to be twice as high in women; risk increases with pregnancy, age, and occupations involving standing. CVI is considered a disabling condition by the US Social Security Administration; however, increasing prevalence has not been met with commensurate increases in rehabilitation research. For the first time, this CAREER project will provide a detailed compositional, structural and biaxial mechanical characterization of venous valve leaflet, sinus and associated vein tissues. Thus, this research will fill a critical gap in the basic science of venous valves, as well as serve as a springboard for innovation, informing approaches to the treatment of CVI. This CAREER project will engage a diverse range of groups: high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, postdocs, underrepresented groups, visually impaired persons, and the local community. Seminars and workshops for the local community will raise awareness of CVI, venous hypertension, and venous valve incompetence. The barrier-free Virtual Atlas of the Valves (VALV) web tool will provide a global repository for knowledge sharing, including tactile graphics of valvular tissue macro- and micro-anatomy for the visually impaired. The embossed tactile graphics from VALV will aid in providing additional accessible educational materials, enabling active learning by the visually impaired through their senses of touch.
This CAREER project focuses on the structural-mechanical aspects of the venous valve tissues. The PI aims to determine, for the first time, the biaxial, nonlinear, and viscoelastic mechanical properties of venous valve leaflet, sinus and adjacent vein tissues, as well as biochemical quantification of venous valve extracellular matrix (ECM) constituents, collagen fiber orientation, and ECM morphology. Experimental structural-mechanical results will be incorporated into viscoelastic and structural-based constitutive models. Collectively, results will provide a much-needed comprehensive basis for understanding venous valve physiology, pathology, and for the advancement of both palliative and restorative therapies, including pharmacological, surgical, and rehabilitation interventions to combat CVI.