Understanding Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a chronic and  progressive inflammatory disease that leads to a build-up of substances known  as plaque on the walls of arteries. This plaque layer can harden over time and  narrow the arteries, limiting blood flow to other parts of the body. Plaque  layers may also rupture, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.

An international team consisting of  engineers, medical researchers, a clinician, physicists and biologists has  developed tools to predict whether plaques may be vulnerable to rupture  by measuring the changes in blood flow patterns around atherosclerosis as  well as the structural stresses in the vessel wall.

Through this  collaboration involving Monash University, the Baker Institute and Alfred Health, a  physiologically relevant computer model was developed which enables simulation  of the blood flow, the structural stresses and shear stresses around  atherosclerotic plaques.

The overall program has also included  micro-computed Synchrotron X-ray tomography to obtain  digitalized artery geometries, Atomic Force Microscopy to measure  the anisotropic elasticity properties of the vessels, establishment of a  vessel chamber to study the dynamics of the system and a nanoparticle  approach to provide in vivo imaging of plaques.

By providing an improved understanding of  the evolution and rupture of vulnerable plaques, this work serves as an  important foundation for the future development of improved diagnosis,  management and therapies for atherosclerosis.