Putting the Squeeze on High Blood Pressure

April 22, 2013
Biomedical Engineering, Parks Today Magazine, Research

The promise of better treatments—and possible cures—for serious vascular diseases drives the research activities of Jessica Wagenseil, D.Sc., and a team of students.

The team is testing the hypothesis that large artery stiffness may cause hypertension (or high blood pressure), a significant and growing disease problem in the developed world. Gathering experimental data such as blood pressure, blood flow and material properties of the artery wall, the team is using mathematical models to predict the outcome of specific medical interventions.

wagenseil-biomedical-engineeringJessica Wagenseil, D.Sc.

“We are trying to determine if changes in arterial stiffness precede hypertension and if that process is reversible, as well as looking at specific treatments that may target this increase in arterial stiffening,” Wagenseil said.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the project is being completed in collaboration with Robert Mecham, Ph.D., at the Washington University School of Medicine.

Supplementing the research, one undergraduate student earned a fellowship from the American Heart Association to study the potential effect of existing anti-hypertensive medications on arterial stiffness and to evaluate more effective treatments for high blood pressure.


Another NIH-funded project led by Wagenseil targets two developmental diseases that cause a narrowing of the aorta, the body’s largest artery. The team is examining potential strategies to 4delay or prevent the narrowing by altering blood pressure or blood flow in specific regions of the aorta during development, rather than having it surgically corrected after it has already occurred.

Wagenseil’s students appreciate the opportunity to contribute to real-world research projects that have significant implications on the future of disease management.

“I am able to use information from my research in the classes that I teach. In biomechanics, there is a whole chapter on vascular mechanics and I discuss results from experiments in my lab that show how mechanics of the vessel wall affect the function of the cardiovascular system.,” she said. “The students like knowing a real world application of the material and of the relevance to improving human health.”

Additional Resources

Back to All News