Our Research​

Learn more about the groundbreaking research we do in the Bark Lab

Our current projects in the lab

The overarching goal of our lab is to identify how mechanical stress impacts upon cell and protein function in the cardiovascular system, while advancing tools to diagnose and treat disease.

Mechanical environment in congenital heart disease (CHD):

CHD affects 2% of births, with an unknown cause in 80% of cases. We’re investigating whether an abnormal mechanical environment in the developing heart can…

Diagnostic devices for hemostatic function:

Monitoring blood clottability is crucial for trauma, surgery, bleeding disorders (e.g. hemophilia), sepsis, and patients on antithrombotics. Most current tests…

Blood-friendly mechanical circulatory support:

Heart failure affects 23 million people worldwide with half of this population passing away within five years. Short-term heart and lung support can come from…

Effects of mechanical environment on blood:

Heart attacks and strokes have long been the leading causes of death and are caused by thrombosis in regions of atherosclerosis. We specialize in how thrombus forms in complex flow, with a focus on

Mechanical environment in congenital heart disease (CHD):

CHD affects 2% of births, with an unknown cause in 80% of cases. We’re investigating whether an abnormal mechanical environment in the developing heart can adversely affect its structure as it transforms from a simple tube into a complex multi-chambered structure with functioning valves. The goal is to identify ways to understand, prevent, and/or treat mechanical sources of CHD.

We’ve analyzed cardiovascular flow in human fetal hearts through computational fluid dynamics (CFD), uncovering energetic differences between healthy and diseased hearts with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, as shown in the figure.

We also study embryonic heart development using a zebrafish model. We’ve characterized the mechanical environment during development through experimental fluid mechanics to quantify hemodyanmics and  forced pressurization with finite element modeling to quantify mechanical properties. So far, in collaboration with Choon Hwai Yap at Imperial College, we’ve discovered that lower blood pressure can reduce/eliminate trabeculation (formation of inner protrusions in the ventricle) and that trabeculae help distribute stress in the heart wall. This may explain a cause for ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathies.

Diagnostic devices for hemostatic function:

Monitoring blood clottability is crucial for trauma, surgery, bleeding disorders (e.g. hemophilia), sepsis, and patients on antithrombotics.

Most current tests struggle to predict bleeding outcomes because they do not reflect blood’s complex functional behavior and instead quantify the amount of something, e.g. proteins, within the blood. We are developing small/portable, low cost, user-friendly, point-of-care diagnostic devices to test a blood sample’s hemostatic (clotting) capacity.

Blood-friendly mechanical circulatory support:

Heart failure affects 23 million people worldwide with half of this population passing away within five years. Short-term heart and lung support can come from extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), while long-term heart support requires ventricular assist devices (VAD)s.

Both have bleeding and thrombosis (blood clot) risks, attributed largely to flow in these devices and to blood-material interactions. We’re evaluating how flow in these mechanical support devices specifically effects blood and how this technology can be re-designed such that it can more safely pump blood.

Effects of mechanical environment on blood:

Heart attacks and strokes have long been the leading causes of death and are caused by thrombosis in regions of atherosclerosis.

We specialize in how thrombus forms in complex flow, with a focus on platelet and von Willebrand factor (VWF) responses to mechanical stress, as they are key players in arterial clots. We are developing assays and studying the effects of mechanical stress at multiple scales.

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