Simulating the physiological deformation of the semilunar heart valves using in vitro and in silico techniques
PhDs and postgraduate research
Funded PhD Project (UK, EU and international students)
School of Mechanical and Design Engineering
4 May 2021 (12pm GMT)
The PhD will be based in the School of Mechanical and Design Engineering in conjunction with the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), Harefield Hospital, Imperial College, and will be supervised by Dr Anssari-Benam, Dr Martino Pani and Dr Adrian Chester (NHLI – Imperial College).
UK and EU candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available; these cover tuition fees at the UK rate for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£15,609 for 2021/22). Bursary recipients will also receive a £1,500 p.a. for project costs/consumables.
International candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for a Portsmouth Global PhD scholarship. Successful candidates will receive a scholarship to cover tuition fees at an international rate for three years, a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£15,609 for 2021/22), and one return flight to London during the duration of the course. Bursary recipients will also receive a £1,500 p.a. for project costs/consumables.
The work on this project involves:
- Quantifying the deformation endured by the semilunar heart valves during their physiological function in vitro using a bioreactor mounted with porcine valves and a custom-developed multi camera digital image correlation.
- Investigating the rate of heart beat/blood flow (i.e., the rate effects) on the deformation behaviour of the valves at physiological and pathophysiological conditions in vitro.
- Validation/comparison of the animal specimens versus human heart valve samples using standard laboratory uniaxial and biaxial deformation tests.
- Modelling the function of the valves and the rate effects using computational simulations in a range of physiological, supra-physiological and pathological conditions in silico.
In a series of recent publications (2018-2020), our group has demonstrated that the mechanical behaviour of semilunar heart valves is rate-dependent. Given that the physiological rate of deformation of the valves can reach as high as 1200%/s, it is of crucial importance to investigate, uncover and understand the true mechanical behaviour of the valves and the rate effects on the physiological and pathological function of the heart valves. This project provides an exciting opportunity to explore the frontiers of heart valve biomechanics and discover the as yet unknown implications of the rate effects.
The scope of the work entails in vitro experimental investigations as well as in silco computational modelling. The experimental work will be carried out using a state-of-the-art bioreactor which allows mimicking the true functional condition of the valves and a custom-developed multi camera digital image correlation system to capture the opening and closure of the valves and quantify the valvular deformation. The specimens will primarily be porcine heart valve samples; however human valve specimens will also be used at the latter stages. With the experiential data at hand, the final phase of the project involves developing computational models to simulate the true function and behaviour of the valves in a range of physiological to pathological conditions.
This project will be carried out in a close collaboration with the Heart Science Centre, National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), Harefield Hospital, Imperial College. The candidate will be based at the host lab, namely the Cardiovascular Engineering Research Lab (CERL) at the University of Portsmouth (UoP), but expected to spend time at the collaborating hospital to set up and perform the experiments. The activities at the NHLI will be supervised by Dr Adrian Chester, and the main supervisor of the project is Dr Afshin Anssari-Benam, UoP.
You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, Biomechanics or an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.
Previous experience in mechanical testing of soft tissues and programming in MATLAB is desirable.
How to apply
We’d encourage you to contact Dr Afshin Anssari-Benam (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.
When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.
If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SMDE6030521 when applying.