Smooth Muscle Cell Mechanotransduction in Aortic Disease

Mentor: Jessica Wagenseil, Vice Dean for Faculty Advancement & Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science

Lab description: Welcome to the Wagenseil Vascular Mechanics Laboratory. We focus on the mechanical behavior of large, elastic arteries during development and disease. We are interested in how the arterial wall remodels to maintain appropriate mechanical properties for heart function.

Project: Many aortic diseases are characterized by changes to the extracellular matrix and consequently changes in the mechanical behavior of the aortic wall. Increases or decreases in the aortic wall modulus will affect the wall strain (or stretch), and that of components within it (like smooth muscle cells (SMCs)) for a given stress, such as applied blood pressure. We hypothesize that increased SMC strain in aortic disease leads to activation of stretch-sensitive ion channels and downstream signaling that alters SMC phenotype and facilitates pathological aortic remodeling. The student will participate in experiments to test this hypothesis such as mechanical tests on aorta from mice that serve as models of human aortic disease, measuring SMC strain, and characterizing SMC phenotype while inhibiting or activating ion channels.