Fluid-structure-growth modeling of the ageing aorta in humans: biomechanical and hemodynamic consequences of elastin degradation

01 January 2019 → 31 December 2022
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Engineering and technology
    • Design theories and methods
    • Mechanics
    • Other mechanical and manufacturing engineering
Project description

Elastin is, together with collagen, one of the key proteins within the wall of the aorta. It allows the
aorta to distend, facilitating the ejection of blood from the heart and ensuring optimal
hemodynamic conditions. Unfortunately, elastin is deposited only during early life and the elastin
that an individual is born with, will serve for his/her entire lifetime. This is in contrast with collagen
and other constituents of the aortic wall, which have a natural turnover rate with a permanent
breakdown of existing and deposition of new material. As we grow from a baby to an adult person,
the elastin gets stretched and introduces a kind of pre-tension in the aorta (comparable to the
function of steel in pre-stressed concrete). With age, the elastin progressively degrades (at the age
of 40, about half of the elastin is no longer intact) leading to an increased tortuosity of arteries and
progressive dilatation. The aim of this research project is to build a so-called fluid-solid-growth
computer model of the human aorta that will allow us to predict the consequences of this ageing
process on the mechanical stresses and stretch of the aortic wall, and how this affects blood
pressure and blood flow. This type of model can subsequently be used when developing computer
models of individual patients that allow to predict how the aorta of this patient will respond to
surgical interventions, such as the placement of a prosthesis.