UMass Amherst Engineer Juan M. Jiménez Gets Five-Year, $500,000 NSF CAREER Grant to Study Blood Flow and Arterial Stents

Research Focuses on Heart Disease, a Leading Cause of Death
arterial stent
arterial stent

AMHERST, Mass. – Juan M. Jiménez, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has received a five-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study how blood flows around artificial stents in coronary arteries affects the cells that line the arteries and directs how they heal. The grant is from the NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program.

Jiménez says his research project is focused on heart disease, the leading cause of death globally and in the U.S. Coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease, is caused by the narrowing of one or more blood vessels in the heart due to the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques.

Jiménez, in addition to his faculty appointment in the College of Engineering, is affiliated with the Institute of Applied Life Sciences (IALS), which combines deep and interdisciplinary expertise from 29 departments on the UMass Amherst campus to translate fundamental research into innovations that benefit humankind.

Stents, metal or plastic tubes inserted into a blocked artery, are commonly used as treatment to open constricted blood vessels and restore blood flow. However, stents also carry medical complications, often related to delayed healing of the wound that is created by the stent upon introduction into the blood vessel. Endothelial cells, the cells lining the inside of blood vessels, play a key role in wound healing after a stent is introduced into the blood vessel and are affected by the local blood flow.

Jiménez says his goal is “to investigate how the blood-flow environment around the individual stent struts affects endothelial cells to promote or prevent wound healing after stent implantation. This knowledge will promote the development of new treatment approaches that can accelerate wound healing after introduction of the stent into a blood vessel and decrease the medical complications associated with stents, leading to improved patient outcomes.” 

The overall research objective is to identify the genetic basis of endothelial cell wound healing in the fluid flow-environment surrounding a stent, a crucial step toward developing targeted therapies for patients after stenting. The hypothesis being investigated is that the fluid flow environment around the stent struts may impede the normal wound healing process that is directed by endothelial cells, Jiménez says.

He heads an interdisciplinary research team within IALS’ Models to Medicine Center. The research goal of the Jiménez laboratory is to elucidate the fluid flow characteristics and fluid flow-dependent biomolecular pathways relevant to diseases and processes in the body, by integrating fluid dynamic engineering into cellular and molecular mechanisms important in medicine. His research focuses on experimental cardiovascular and bone biomedicine. In the cardiovascular system the group addresses the interaction of flow in the blood vasculature and lymphatic system with the endothelium. In bones, they investigate how interstitial fluid flow in contact with bone cells plays a role in bone remodeling. Furthermore, the group also works in the area of biomedical implantable devices like stents.