Fluid Dynamics   Leave a comment

The human body is basically a whole bunch of tubes. There’s large ones, like your blood vessels, airway and digestive tract; and there’s microscopic ones. Your kidneys each consist of about a million tubes. Many other organs and systems in your body are also tubes, and it’s possible to understand how your body works by not thinking of your body as a big bulky object, but as thin surfaces, like large sheets of (rolled or crumpled) paper.

Each tube in the kidney is exactly one cell thick and is made of the same type of cells as your skin. Just like your skin, your renal epithelia separates ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. For nephrons, ‘inside’ is the blood and ‘outside’ the ultrafiltrate. Other tubes can be more complex, consisting of multiple cell types and connective tissue; renal epithelia represent a very simple type of structure in the body. Airway epithelia is another important cell type for my research.

One thing all these tubes have in common is that they are full of moving fluid. We are interested in modeling both the flow and the biological effects of the flow.

Airways are significantly more complicated than nephrons for several reasons. First, nephrons are full of a simple fluid while airways have two different fluids (a liquid and air), one of which is very complex. Finally, the airway cells are covered in motile cilia, which beat and move the airway fluid up and out of the lung.

One aspect of our work is to model the fluid flow within a nephron- unfortunately, measuring the flow within a living kidney is extremely difficult and hasn’t been attempted in humans, so we have to use computational and theoretical methods to estimate and predict the fluid conditions within a single nephron.

Culturing renal cells in a specialized chamber and subjecting them to flow is much easier.

We flow ‘fake’ ultrafiltrate over the cells for long periods of time- weeks- and then look for a response. One goal we have is to determine if and how the cells can respond to different *types* of flow- steady, changing, fast, slow, etc.

Posted August 27, 2010 by resnicklab

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