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UH Moment

UH Moment: “Mathematical Biosciences”

What if you could determine the challenges of important heart research before costly experimental testing? It’s a role being filled by mathematics. Learn how in this week’s UH Moment.


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Math sparks stressful memories of high school homework stumpers and late-night cramming for midterms.  Math has not always been our friend.  But at the University of Houston, math is proving a valuable guide for design solutions, and is fastly becoming a partner with its disciplinary cousins, the hard sciences.  At the Center for the Mathematical Biosciences, math computations and models are an integral part important cardiovascular research. 

A mathematical model of a heart stent

A mathematical model of a heart stent
Click here for see the model in motion

“We can suggest optimal stent designs, for example,” said UH Cullen Distinguished Professor Suncica Canic, co-director of the center, which partners with area universities and Texas Medical Center entities to use mathematical algorithms and models to describe certain applied problems. “We write mathematical equations that describe the behavior of those devices, stents, when they are inserted in a human artery.  If you, for example, have an artery that is very curved, with time the artery may deform the stent and the stent may obstruct the flow of blood. By looking at mathematical models we can suggest a design for a stent that will eventually avoid complications of this kind.”

Canic, through the center, currently is working with researchers at the Texas Heart Institute, St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, Rice University, UT Health Science Center in Houston, Baylor College of Medicine and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.  She says using math this way is efficient and reduces the cost of experimental testing. 

“Only a small number of suggested designs would have to be tested to see which performs best in a given situation instead of having experiments done on a large number of possibilities,” she said.  “This is a fertile ground for this kind of research to be produced in Houston and UH. We are almost uniquely positioned to carry first rate research in this particular area.” 

Mathematical Biosciences are part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.

Telling the stories of the University of Houston, this UH Moment is brought to you by KUHF, listener supported radio from the University of Houston.