The circulation of the blood through the lungs plays a vital role in transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. In addition, many blood-borne substances are metabolized on passage through the pulmonary circulation. These functions can be compromised in patients with high pulmonary blood pressure, blood clots in the lung vessels, respiratory failure, and other conditions. Studies conducted by MU and MCW faculty in the Lung Physiology Laboratory at the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee are designed to determine the nature of the damage to the pulmonary circulation caused by these conditions in terms of the nervous and chemical control of the pulmonary vascular muscle and the influence of mechanical obstruction. Another objective is to develop methods that do not require extensive surgery for evaluating the nature and magnitude of the lung damage. Experimental data are collected using appropriate animal models of normal and abnormal circulation. The data are evaluated using mathematical models of the circulation of the blood through the lungs. An important aspect of the research involves the determination of which aspects of the mathematical model are useful for making such evaluations in a clinical setting.
Current research projects include the study of pulmonary disposition of various lipophilic amine compounds which possess unique characteristics making them suitable indicator probes in the multiple indicator dilution method, pulmonary endothelial metabolism and oxidation/reduction using optical instrumentation, and cellular bioreactors, mathematical models of the chemical kinetics of the effect of shear stress on nitric oxide production in the lung, fractal models of pulmonary hemodynamics, and ligand binding kinetics of the pulmonary endothelium.
The Keck Center for Microfocal Angiography possesses unique capabilities for x-ray microfocal imaging research. A present focus of the research is on physiological and pathophysiological studies of the lung. The microfocal imaging system, uses a 3 micrometer focal spot x-ray tube, and is the only one of its kind for biological studies. The microfocal imaging system enables the examination of blood vessels and small airways as small as 30 microns. The x-ray microfocal imaging technology is used to study conditions such as asthma, lung tumor perfusion, and Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome in dynamic, planer imaging and computed tomography (CT) modes.
Faculty in the biomedical engineering department are using functional imaging, mathematical modeling and instrumentation design to develop implantable devices, such as stents, to treat cardiovascular disease in both pediatric and adult populations. Specifically, Dr. LaDisa is focusing on Coarctation of the Aorta (CoA), a severe blockage of the main artery that delivers blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Stent implantation is becoming the favored method of treatment for CoA; however, there are no FDA-approved stents designed specifically for children, raising questions about their potential adverse effects on a child’s aorta. Dr. LaDisa is collaborating with physicians in the Department of Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital and Medical College of Wisconsin to study the long-term effects of current stent treatments and develop a novel stent designed specifically for the progressive treatment of CoA in children.