The microcirculation is a network of extremely small blood vessels that supplies oxygen and nutrients to all parts of our tissues. The focus of work in Dr. Secomb's research group is the use of mathematical and computational approaches to study blood flow and mass transport in the microcirculation. Working in collaboration with experimentalists, we aim to understand quantitatively the processes involved. The main areas of their work are:
Mechanics of blood flow in microvessels. We are examining the relationship between red blood cell mechanics and flow resistance in microvessels. Theoretical predictions agree well with observations in glass tubes, but resistance is higher living tissue. The research group has found that the major cause is the presence of a relatively thick macromolecular lining (endothelial surface layer) on the walls of microvessels.
Mass transport to tissue. The research group is simulating oxygen exchange between networks of microvessels and surrounding tissues in skeletal muscle and tumors. In skeletal muscle, they have shown how oxygen can be exchanged diffusively between arterioles and capillaries, and they are studying the determinants of maximal oxygen consumption. In tumors, they are studying the relationship between network structure and occurrence of local hypoxic (radiation-resistant) regions. Also, they are analyzing the delivery of chemotherapeutic drugs in tumor tissues.
Structural adaptation of microvascular networks. They are developing models for the structural responses of microvessels to functional demands. They have found that maintenance of a stable, functionally adequate distribution of vessel diameters can be achieved if each vessel responds to changes in wall shear stress, intravascular pressure and local metabolic conditions, and if mechanisms exist for information transfer upstream and downstream along flow pathways.
Regulation of blood flow: the research group ise developing models for the active regulation of blood flow by changes in vascular tone, taking into account vascular responses to wall shear stress, pressure and local metabolic state, and including effects of conducted responses along vessel walls.