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Simulating the physiological deformation of the semilunar heart valves using in vitro and in silico techniques

   School of Mechanical and Design Engineering

About the Project

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3-year full-time or 6-year part time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the School of Mechanical and Design Engineering in conjunction with the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), Harefield Hospital, Imperial College, and will be supervised by Dr Afshin Anssari-Benam, Dr Martino Pani and Dr Adrian Chester (NHLI – Imperial College).

The work on this project could involve:

  • Quantifying the deformation endured by the semilunar heart valves during their physiological function in vitro using a bioreactor mounted with porcine valves and a custom-developed multi camera digital image correlation.
  • Investigating the rate of heart beat/blood flow (i.e., the rate effects) on the deformation behaviour of the valves at physiological and pathophysiological conditions in vitro.
  • Validation/comparison of the animal specimens versus human heart valve samples using standard laboratory uniaxial and biaxial deformation tests. 
  • Modelling the function of the valves and the rate effects using computational simulations in a range of physiological, supra-physiological and pathological conditions in silico.

Project description

In a series of recent publications (2018-2020), our group has demonstrated that the mechanical behaviour of semilunar heart valves is rate-dependent. Given that the physiological rate of deformation of the valves can reach as high as 1200%/s, it is of crucial importance to investigate, uncover and understand the true mechanical behaviour of the valves and the rate effects on the physiological and pathological function of the heart valves. This project provides an exciting opportunity to explore the frontiers of heart valve biomechanics and discover the as yet unknown implications of the rate effects. 

The scope of the work entails in vitro experimental investigations as well as in silco computational modelling. The experimental work will be carried out using a state-of-the-art bioreactor which allows mimicking the true functional condition of the valves and a custom-developed multi camera digital image correlation system to capture the opening and closure of the valves and quantify the valvular deformation. The specimens will primarily be porcine heart valve samples; however human valve specimens will also be used at the latter stages. With the experiential data at hand, the final phase of the project involves developing computational models to simulate the true function and behaviour of the valves in a range of physiological to pathological conditions. 

This project will be carried out in a close collaboration with the Heart Science Centre, National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), Harefield Hospital, Imperial College. The candidate will be based at the host lab, namely the Cardiovascular Engineering Research Lab (CERL) at the University of Portsmouth (UoP), but expected to spend time at the collaborating hospital to set up and perform the experiments. The activities at the NHLI will be supervised by Dr. Adrian Chester, and the main supervisor of the project is Dr. Afshin Anssari-Benam, UoP.

General admissions criteria

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements

Previous experience in mechanical testing of soft tissues and programming in MATLAB is desirable.

How to Apply

We encourage you to contact Dr Afshin Anssari-Benam () to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code below.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Mechanical and Design Engineering PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

When applying please quote project code:SMDE6081023

Funding Notes

Self-funded PhD students only.
PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK students only).

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