Evaluation of flow-modulation approaches in ventricular assist devices using an in-vitro endothelial cell culture model

Thomas A. Haglund, Namakkal S. Rajasekaran, Benjamin Smood, Guruprasad A. Giridharan, Charles W. Hoopes, William L. Holman, David C. Mauchley, Sumanth D. Prabhu, Salpy V. Pamboukian, Jose A. Tallaj, Indranee N. Rajapreyar, James K. Kirklin, Palaniappan Sethu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Continuous-flow ventricular assist devices (CF-VADs) produce non-physiologic flow with diminished pulsatility, which is a major risk factor for development of adverse events, including gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). Introduction of artificial pulsatility by modulating CF-VAD flow has been suggested as a potential solution. However, the levels of pulsatility and frequency of CF-VAD modulation necessary to prevent adverse events are currently unknown and need to be evaluated. METHODS: The purpose of this study was to use human aortic endothelial cells (HAECs) cultured within an endothelial cell culture model (ECCM) to: (i) identify and validate biomarkers to determine the effects of pulsatility; and (ii) conclude whether introduction of artificial pulsatility using flow-modulation approaches can mitigate changes in endothelial cells seen with diminished pulsatile flow. Nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 (Nrf-2)–regulated anti-oxidant genes and proteins and the endothelial nitric oxide synthase/endothelin-1 (eNOS/ET-1) signaling pathway are known to be differentially regulated in response to changes in pulsatility. RESULTS: Comparison of HAECs cultured within the ECCM (normal pulsatile vs CF-VAD) with aortic wall samples from patients (normal pulsatile [n = 5] vs CF-VADs [n = 5]) confirmed that both the Nrf-2–activated anti-oxidant response and eNOS/ET-1 signaling pathways were differentially regulated in response to diminished pulsatility. Evaluation of 2 specific CF-VAD flow-modulation protocols to introduce artificial pulsatility, synchronous (SYN, 80 cycles/min, pulse pressure 20 mm Hg) and asynchronous (ASYN, 40 cycles/min, pulse pressure 45 mm Hg), suggested that both increased expression of Nrf-2–regulated anti-oxidant genes and proteins along with changes in levels of eNOS and ET-1 can potentially be minimized with ASYN and, to a lesser extent, with SYN. CONCLUSIONS: HAECs cultured within the ECCM can be used as an accurate model of large vessels in patients to identify biomarkers and select appropriate flow-modulation protocols. Pressure amplitude may have a greater effect in normalizing anti-oxidant response compared with frequency of modulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-465
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • continuous-flow ventricular assist device
  • diminished pulsatility
  • endothelial cell culture model
  • endothelial dysfunction
  • flow modulation


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