Robert van Lith, M.S.
Ph.D. Candidate, Biomedical Engineering (Expected graduation: June 2013)
Contact: r-lith at northwestern.edu
Research Interests: Nitric oxide delivery, antioxidants, biomaterials, vascular tissue engineering
Synthetic vascular grafts such as ePTFE and Dacron are used commonly for replacing dysfunctional blood vessels, e.g. due to diseases such as atherosclerosis. However, in vessels with diameters smaller than 6 mm, synthetic bypass grafts suffer from low patency rates due to the high inherent thrombogenicity of the materials and neo-intimal hyperplasia, leading to occlusion.
Nitric oxide is secreted at fairly steady levels by endothelial cells, the natural lining of blood vessels. Among others, it prevent adhesion and activation of platelets (involved in thrombosis), and inhibit overproliferation of smooth muscle cells (two major causes of neo-intimal hyperplasia and subsequent occlusion). Therefore we are developing strategies for local delivery of nitric oxide to ultimately improve the survival rates of synthetic grafts in small-diameter blood vessels.
Ultimately, we hope to achieve significant in vivo levels of NO for at least several weeks, enough to overcome the initial inflammatory response that is the main cause of neo-intimal hyperplasia and thrombosis problems.Selected Awards / Honors: