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Research Highlight: Zannatul Ferdous

Dr. Zannatul Ferdous, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering, leads a research team addressing one of humanity’s biggest health issues. Cardiovascular diseases are the world’s number one cause of death, with some estimates indicating that as many as one-third of the planet’s deaths in a given year are attributable to some form of the disease. While heart valve disease is only one of many afflictions falling under that heading, its widespread impact—affecting up to 30 percent of the elderly population in developed countries alone—makes it a key component of the overall problem of heart-related ailments.

“Currently, the treatment option for valve disease is mainly end-stage replacement or repair surgeries, and no early treatment or detection options exist,” said Ferdous. “The goal of our lab is to understand these diseases and develop alternate treatment options such as functional tissue-engineered heart valves.”

By studying the root causes of one of the main issues with heart valves, calcification, and working to constructing new heart valves through tissue engineering—using cells to construct organic human tissue—Ferdous and her group aim to eventually develop calcification-proof valves.

“We are tackling calcification head-on, looking at risk factors from everything like age and gender to chemical factors and cell characteristics,” said Ferdous. “At the same time, we are developing custom devices that will allow us to truly mimic all the forces at play in the heart. This will be a significant improvement.”

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