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Characterising the biomechanical properties of blood clots

clot modelResized

Prototype testing of blood clot analogues in laboratory conditions (top) with flow visualisation of the velocity field using particle image velocimetry (middle), and a close-up of a deformed clot from a numerical simulation (bottom). Flow is from left to right, and the quickest flow is shown in yellow (narrowest region above the clot; image supplied).

> Te reo Māori

This research will advance our understanding of how blood clots form in our blood vessels and how they grow over time. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), the formation of a blood clot within a deep vein (commonly in the legs), is a potential problem for anyone who remains still for extended periods of time; for example on a long-haul flight or an extended hospital visit. This blood disorder is potentially life-threatening and you may not have any noticeable symptoms. Blood clotting is an important part of the normal wound healing process but can essentially overcompensate for the problems caused by the wound and result in complications. Blood clots, and particularly DVT, are more prevalent within the older population and enforces a significant economic burden on our healthcare system as well as degrading quality of life. We propose to numerically simulate the formation and growth of thrombi in blood vessels and compare and validate our results with both inhouse experiments and with those performed by our collaborators who have world-class facilities for optical imaging of living organisms. In our proposed project we will utilise this experimental data in conjunction with our own numerical simulations to quantify the growth rate and mechanical properties of thrombi. Thrombi may become lethal when they dislodge from the blood vessel wall and flow through the blood stream towards lungs, causing a blockage known as pulmonary embolism. Understanding the mechanical properties and response of thrombi would enable a prediction for clinicians on whether or not a thrombus would embolise. The novelty and primary contribution of this work is the creation and robust validation of a computational model for predicting the physical dynamics of thrombi, in order to facilitate the development of effective treatments for venous thrombosis.