Dr. Bellini’s talk will focus on two ongoing projects in her research group. In the first part of the talk, she will present the mechanical characterization of the aorta in a mouse model of rescued thoracic aortic aneurysm. A common feature across several mouse models of thoracic aortic aneurysm is the increased circumferential stiffness within the physiological range of pressures. The mouse model of Marfan syndrome, a hereditary condition that predisposes patients to ocular, vascular, and skeletal disorders, falls well within the observed trend. While the removal of a gene that codes for a protein called LTBP3 prevents aneurysm formation in the Marfan mouse, it does not fully restore vascular function. Given the persistent skeletal phenotype of these double mutant mice, our observations suggest a strong mechanical coupling between the aorta and the spine. In the second part of her talk, she will discuss the effects of chronic cigarette smoking in a mouse model of nose-only aerosol delivery. While there is sufficient evidence in the literature to relate smoking to vascular pathologies such as abdominal aortic aneurysms, atherosclerosis, and stroke, the mechanisms of these interactions remain unknown. To fill this gap, apolipoprotein-e insufficient mice were exposed daily to cigarette smoke over a period of 6 months. The combined actions of smoke inhalation and lipidic imbalance causes a progressive softening of the mechanical response of the abdominal aorta in the circumferential direction. Although the aorta from exposed mice is unable to maintain wall shear stress near homeostatic value, structural stiffening and material softening prevent drastic changes in stress, stiffness, and distensibility.
Dr. Bellini received her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Calgary in 2012. While in Calgary, she worked with Prof. Elena di Martino to quantify changes in the mechanics of the left atrium following the onset of atrial fibrillation, using a combination of experimental and computational approaches. Later, Dr. Bellini pursued her postdoctoral training in Prof. Jay Humphrey’s lab at Yale University, where she focused on the mechanical characterization of thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections using genetically-modified and pharmacologically treated mouse models. In September 2016 Dr. Bellini joined the Department of Bioengineering faculty at Northeastern University as an Assistant Professor. Her research is focused on elucidating how pathophysiological processes of cell-mediated growth and remodeling affect the mechanical function of tissues and organs within the cardiovascular system.