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At the Heart of the Matter: Design Solutions for Childhood Cardiovascular Diseases

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

4:00 PM-5:30 PM

BIOMED Seminar


At the Heart of the Matter: Design Solutions for Childhood Cardiovascular Diseases

Amy Throckmorton, PhD
Associate Professor
Director of the BioCirc Research Laboratory
School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems
Drexel University

Each year, millions of infants are born with congenital heart anomalies, and thousands of these infants require open-heart surgery within the first days-to-years of life. While these children benefit in the short-term, a growing segment with complex heart defects develop heart failure, frequently due to complications from arrhythmias, or bacterial or viral infections that attack the heart and impair its ability to effectively pump blood. Heart transplantation, when available, becomes the only lifesaving option. Fortunately, children can benefit from short or long-term mechanical circulatory support in the form of a blood pump or ventricular assist device (VAD): a medical device designed to assist the heart's left ventricle (pumping blood to the body) or the heart's right ventricle (pumping blood to the lungs). VAD technology for children, however, lag in development behind those for adults and while many intended-for-adult devices have been utilized in children, the operation of these pumps at off-design pressures and capacities increases the potential for irregular blood flow, contributing to harmful hemolysis (blood cell rupture) and dangerous thrombosis (clotting). For decades, developers have scaled adult cardiac devices as an attempt to address the unmet clinical needs of pediatric patients, and this has repeatedly proven to be a failed strategy.

In general, pediatric patients have unique anatomy and physiology that dramatically change during growth and development, and the heterogeneity of rare childhood diseases and illnesses are distinct from adult diseases. This new awareness has instituted an epic shift in conventional thinking with the emergence of a new field of engineering and applied science: Pediatric Engineering. The purpose of this field is to flip the conventional wisdom that children are simply little adults and to commandeer design and innovation that suits the specific and adaptive needs of the child with consideration for growth and development. As a lifelong pediatric engineer at heart, I look forward to demonstrating our leadership and commitment to expand Drexel's research and educational footprint in the field of Pediatric Engineering and to sharing my teams' new pediatric-centric design solutions for childhood cardiovascular diseases.  

Amy Throckmorton, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems at Drexel University. She leads an interdisciplinary, federally funded research program that innovates and develops life-saving therapeutic devices and new treatment strategies at the intersection of pediatric medicine and cardiovascular engineering. Dr. Throckmorton recently held a Visiting Professorship in the Department of Cardiac Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University. Here she expanded her research into neurovascular and cerebral hemodynamics to elucidate the impact of blood pumps on cerebrospinal fluid motility.

Dr. Throckmorton serves as an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions of Biomedical Engineering, Cardiovascular Engineering and Technology, Artificial Organs, and ASAIO Journal. She is also a member of the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) Bioengineering, Technology and Surgical Sciences (BTSS) Review Panel. Her strong track record of extramural funding consists of grant awards from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, American Heart Association, Hartwell Foundation, International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, Medtronic, U.S. Department of Education, Thomas Jefferson University, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dr. Throckmorton has more than 75 publications, 80 national and international conference presentations, 7 patent awards, and 20 honors for research and teaching, including a prestigious Drexel University Distinguished Career Lindback Teaching Award and Fellow of the Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering and Science (ELATES) Program. In collaboration with her community allies, she continues to lead a cross-University COVID-19 rapid response team that has distributed more than 54,000 durable and re-usable face shields to national and international hospital systems, EMS organizations, police departments, community shelters, home healthcare agencies, rehabilitation and nursing home facilities, and educational institutions.

Contact Information

Lisa Williams

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