Alevriadou's Research Keeps Flowing Along Ken Keatley ------------------------------------ Homewood News and Information In Rita Alevriadou's laboratory, they like the expression "go with the flow." She and her research team have engineered experimental in vitro systems that mimic blood flow in humans to determine how vital components of the vessel wall--endothelial cells--are affected by flow-induced mechanical stresses. Understanding how the friction generated by blood flow affects those cells will be very helpful in the search for better treatment of such cardiovascular diseases as atherosclerosis, restenosis or the narrowing of vessels after angioplasty. "Endothelial cells are exciting," said Alevriadou, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. "Under normal conditions, they act as a barrier, keeping blood platelets from adhering to the vessel wall. They also release chemicals to prevent platelet thrombosis (blood clotting). But if the cells are altered by disease or removed by injury, thrombosis will occur." To bolster her efforts to determine how the mechanical environment affects the anti-coagulant properties of the cells, Alevriadou has recently been awarded a grant from the Whitaker Foundation. The three-year grant, which will total $180,000, is one of 42 made under the Washington-based foundation's Biomedical Engineering Research Grants program for 1995. Another research project being actively pursued in her lab employs such sophisticated techniques as video microscopy and digital image processing to visualize and quantify the extent of platelet thrombosis, from flowing blood, onto surfaces that mimic the diseased vessel wall. "Our research is important, since in order to improve the treatment strategies for vascular diseases it will be necessary to understand the response of blood cells and endothelial cells to arterial stresses," said Alevriadou. Much of Alevriadou's research in fluid dynamics and vascular biology is done in collaboration with cardiologists, hematologists and other specialists in the School of Medicine. They are about to embark on another project, which will examine the role of the female hormone estrogen--which studies have found to be protective against cardiovascular diseases in women--on endothelial cells. Alevriadou, who earned her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Rice University in 1992, came to Hopkins following a one-year stint as a research associate in the Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute. "I've long been interested in applying engineering principles--like transport phenomena and fluid dynamics--to medicine and biology," said Alevriadou. "At Hopkins, the close relationship between engineering and medicine enhances the opportunity for exciting research collaborations."
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