Pulmonary Hypertension Presents Unique Research Opportunity for Biomedical Engineers

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by Reid D'Amico |

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When people hear engineering, many immediately jump to visions of grandiose buildings, beautiful bridges, or complicated machines. The stereotypical vision of engineers has since changed, as many of us have ventured into the field of science and medical research. Why is this important?

As a biomedical engineer, my classes and analytical nature make us think differently: we see things through the lenses of coding and mathematics while also creating logistical pathways in our head to understand complex phenomena. There are many engineers researching different diseases, from cancer to arthritis, but I believe that pulmonary hypertension presents a unique and compelling field in which engineers can apply their backgrounds to advance the understanding of the disease.

When I first entered my pulmonary vascular lab, I had little background or understanding of PH. I remember simply Google searching “pulmonary arterial hypertension” weeks before starting in the lab. I was immediately struck at how PAH presented itself as an engineering problem. The concepts of pressures, shear rates, and cylindrical vessels were all topics that engineers learn during their undergraduate education. However, instead of studying these concepts within piping system, I would instead be studying and learning how to address the problem in a human.

As I ventured deeper into the literature of PAH, I was continually struck by more similarities between my engineering education and the physiology of the disease. Many of the assays and machines that can be used to study PAH are ones that I’ve even used in civil and mechanical engineering classes. To me this only reinforced that engineering wasn’t so much learning how to build machines and algorithms, but instead learning the skill-sets, and then applying them to other fields.

In terms of my own research, I’ve used my background to create more physiological relevant ways to study PAH. From incorporating pulsatile pressures into model systems, to using mechanical testing of vessels as a way to understand mechanical changes in PAH. I’m still amazed that more engineers haven’t ventured into the field of pulmonary vasculature.

However, I believe the largest takeaway from this experience is the understanding that all experience is relevant in the field of medicine. The diversity of scientific education when studying a disease is key to elucidating techniques, treatments, and assays that can be used to work toward new therapies for any disease.

So, to persons who don’t think they have the correct background needed to go into medical research, think again. Statistics, mathematics, sociology and psychology all have relevance in rare disease research. As a patient of a rare disease myself, I know the struggles of having a disease do not just include the organs affected. At times, it seems that my experience is lacking guidance and mentorship when it comes to insurance help, mental health, and other related aspects of disease. So, no matter your career, know that your background is still relevant and can help those in need.

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


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