Date of Award



Biomedical and General Engineering


Kristen O'Halloran Cardinal


The prevalence and devastating nature of cardiovascular diseases has led to many advancements in the therapies used to treat the millions of patients that suffer as a result of these conditions. As coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common of these cardiovascular conditions, it is a major focus of research among the medical industry. Although lifestyle changes and drug therapies can treat early CAD, more advanced cases often require more definitive interventions. In conjunction with angioplasty, stenting of an occluded vessel has shown significant success in preventing restenosis. However, as with nearly every therapeutic process in the medical field, several complications have arisen in stented patients that pose a need for further improvement of the devices. As a result, the stent industry is constantly striving towards improving the characteristics and outcome of their product and with these efforts comes the need for extensive testing and research.

Continuous improvement and innovation in the field of tissue engineering has brought about the possibility of creating laboratory grown tissue engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs) for the purpose of replacing and/or bypassing damaged or occluded regions of the vasculature. By employing the techniques used to produce TEVGs, a blood vessel mimic (BVM) bioreactor system has been developed with the intent of using the resulting construct as a model for testing the cellular response of a human blood vessel to an intravascular device such as a stent. This would allow gathering of more significant data in the early stages of device development and may reduce the overall costs and time required to refine a design.

Although the BVM system has previously been used to cultivate viable constructs that were subsequently used to observe the response to a deployed stent, the flow conditions within the original design are not representative of the physiologic conditions in a native vessel. This aspect of the original system presented a need for development in order to be considered by researchers as an accurate in vitro representation of the target vessels in which the stents are used. One of the primary concerns of this environment is creating and maintaining physiologic flow conditions that will represent those present in native vessels in order to facilitate cells sodded on the construct to grow as they would under native conditions. The two key aspects of flow are pulsatility and wall shear stress.

Studies in this thesis were carried out to determine the best and most feasible methods for implementing appropriate levels of pulsation and wall shear stress in the previously established BVM bioreactor system with the intention of maintaining the original system’s simplicity and high throughput potential. Pulsatile flow was created by elevating backpressure in the BVM chamber while using a different pump head and pump tubing. Wall shear stress was adjusted by altering the viscosity of the perfusate and flow rate through the system. Both pulsatile flow and shear stress were established without any major changes to the overall configuration of the system.

Pulsatile pressures of ~80 mmHg and wall shear stress forces of ~6.4 dyn/cm2 were established with minimal alteration to the original system. Pulsatility was created by using a 3-roller peristaltic pump head in place of the originally specified 8-roller head to create pulses that were then regulated with backpressure created by restricting down stream flow. Increasing the viscosity and corresponding flow rate allowed for instigation and control of wall shear stress at the inner wall of the BVM graft. Although the resulting protocols presented here require refinement for ultimately successful implementation, they are important underpinnings that will facilitate the eventual development of an ideal BVM system that is highly suitable for use as a high-throughput intravascular device testing model.