Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Helene Langevin, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Glenn R. Gaudette, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Marsha W. Rolle, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

C. Keith Ozaki, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Cosme Furlong, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Yanhang Zhang, Committee Member




Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) remain the most common cause of death in the United States. Additionally, peripheral artery disease affects thousands of people each year. A major underlying cause of these diseases is the occlusion of the coronary or peripheral arteries due to arteriosclerosis. To overcome this, a number of vascular interventions have been developed including angioplasty, stenting, endarterectomies and bypass grafts. Although all of these methods are capable of restoring blood flow to the distal organ after occlusion, they are all plagued by unacceptably high restenosis rates. While the biological reactions that occur as a result of each of these methods differ, the initiating factor of both the primary atherosclerosis and subsequent failure of vascular interventions appears to be intimal hyperplasia (IH).

Intimal hyperplasia is most simply defined as the expansion of multiple layers of cells internally to the internal elastic lamina of the blood vessel. This excessive cellular growth leads to arterial stenosis, plaque formation and inflammatory reactions. Despite extensive research the underlying factors that cause IH remain unclear. A quantity of research to date has implicated endothelial cell mechanosensation as the mechanism by which IH is initiated with evidence positively correlating wall shear stress with IH. Others, however, have demonstrated that changes in the stresses applied to the wall in vitro can modulate IH independent of hemodynamic shear stress. Thus, relations between wall tensile stress and IH in vivo may shed light on the underlying mechanisms of IH. Since noninvasive measurement of wall tensile stress in vivo is difficult, it is most feasible to measure oscillatory wall strain which is intimately related to wall tensile stress through the mechanical properties of the arterial wall. In this dissertation, we hypothesize that reductions in oscillatory wall strain precede the formation of intimal hyperplasia in a murine model.

To test our hypothesis, we first developed a novel, high spatial and temporal resolution method to measure oscillatory wall strains in the murine common carotid artery. We validated this method both in vitro using an arterial phantom and in vivo using a murine model of abdominal aortic aneurysms. To assess relationships between strain and IH, we applied our strain measurement technique to a recently developed mouse model of IH. In this model, a suture is used to create a focal stenosis and reduce flow through the common carotid artery by 85%; resulting in proximal IH formation. Using this approach, we identified a relationship between oscillatory strain reductions and IH. Subsequent analysis demonstrated that early reductions in mechanical strain just 4 days after focal stenosis creation correlate with IH formation nearly 1 month later.

Since IH is not expected to form by day 4 in this model, we went on to assess changes in gross vascular morphology at day 4. We discovered that, although strains are significantly reduced by day 4, no significant IH can be observed, suggesting that changes in wall structure are resulting in strain reductions. At day 4 post-op, we observed cellular proliferation and leukocyte recruitment to the wall without intimal hyperplasia. These studies suggest that early reductions in mechanical strain may be an important predictor of IH formation. Clinically, this relation could be important for the development of novel techniques for predicting IH formation before it becomes hemodynamically significant.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Biomedical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





medical imaging, ultrasound, peripheral artery disease, biomechanics, intimal hyperplasia, coronary artery disease