Juan Jiménez, an associate professor in the UMass Amherst Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department and an adjunct professor in the Biomedical Engineering Department, has obtained a prestigious 2024-2025 U.S. Fulbright Scholarship to perform pioneering research on wound healing in arteries and ultimately to decrease complications of stent implantation. His research at the Center for Molecular and Vascular Biology in the Department of Cardiovascular Science at Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, Belgium, will test a groundbreaking new approach to hasten wound healing after stent deployment and to improve treatment of cardiovascular diseases, a group of maladies that together represent the leading cause of death in the world. 

The Fulbright Scholarship includes an award of $3,259 per month, plus a one-time travel allowance of $1,086.

As Jiménez explains the backstory to his Fulbright research, “Medical devices, such as stents, have revolutionized treatment [of heart diseases]. However, the sometimes-fatal complication of in-stent thrombosis, or blood-clot formation, can occur after stent placement due to delayed wound healing. A new approach to accelerate wound healing after stent deployment is critically needed to rapidly restore the endothelium [a thin layer of cells lining the blood vessels, heart, and lymphatic vessels] and decrease the risk of in-stent thrombosis.” 

The innovative Fulbright research of Jiménez promises to respond to this vital problem by understanding if pressure gradients can hinder or boost the speed of wound healing after stents are implanted. As he says, “This project will test if pressure gradients generated by blood-vessel ligation affect endothelial-cell migration and wound healing, highlighting pressure gradients as an important variable to consider in implantable medical-device design.”

As head of the Jiménez Lab, he says that “Our laboratory studies the interaction between fluid flow and biology by integrating fluid-dynamic engineering, cellular, and molecular biology. Body fluids or biofluids, such as blood, lymph, and cerebrospinal fluid, continuously interact with cells in the body eliciting biochemical and physical responses. Our research seeks to elucidate the fluid-flow characteristics and fluid-flow-dependent biomolecular pathways relevant in medicine.”

Jiménez received a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University. Following his graduation from Princeton, he transitioned to the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Medicine and Engineering as a postdoctoral fellow to study the effects of fluid flow on implantable biomedical devices such as stents. 

After his postdoc, Jiménez remained at Penn as a faculty member for several years while studying several interrelated factors vital to his projected Fulbright research. These factors include: the fundamentals of fluid dynamics relevant in the development and progression of diseases such as atherosclerosis; response of vascular-endothelial cells to fluid-flow stimuli; blood-fluid-flow parameters that can lead to the development of blood clots within the vascular system and implantable devices; and development of biomedical devices that incorporate the fundamentals of both engineering and biology for clinical success. 

Jiménez is a triple early career-grant awardee of the National Institutes of Health K25 Mentored Quantitative Research Career Development Award, National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and Biomedical Engineering Society Innovation and Career Development Award. He is also a recipient of a Young Investigator Award from the Gordon Research Conference on Biomechanics in Vascular Biology & Disease.

According to the Fulbright website, Fulbright Scholar Awards are prestigious and competitive fellowships that provide unique opportunities for scholars to teach and conduct research abroad. Alumni of the Fulbright Program include 62 Nobel Laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, 80 MacArthur Fellows, and thousands of leaders and world-renowned experts in academia and many other fields across the private, public, and non-profit sectors. (April 2024)

Article posted in Faculty