Engineering in Medicine Colloquium Series: Why do Asthmatics have Hyperresponsive Airways? Understanding the Whole Lung Response in the Context of its Parts

Kenneth R. Lutchen, Dean, College of Engineering, Boston University

Friday, March 1, 2013, 12:30pm

MacLean B01

Asthma is a complex disease residing in a complex structure, the lung. Fundamentally asthma exists in patients that have hyperreactive airways. This means that when the airway smooth muscle (ASM) surrounding airways is exposed to a contractile stimulus, the airways will constrict far more in an asthmatic than a healthy person and this occurs at a lower dose of the contractile agent. Remarkably, there remains substantial lack of agreement as to how this occurs in a whole lung and when and how it reaches a level that detrimentally impacts lung function. This talk will speak to the multi-scale structural alterations that are likely occurring in asthma and discuss the role that a variety of mechanisms may be playing in the asthmatic lung so as to depress function. I will review the isolate ASM as a contractile apparatus which is fundamentally dependent on the dynamics occurring when stimulated; the intact whole airway as a fundamental heterogeneous system of ASM and extracelluar matrix and soft tissue all of which can and do remodel to determine if and how an airway hyperconstricts after stimulation; and finally the whole lung as a complex branching airway that necessarily constricts heterogeneously to establish the degree that whole lung function is compromised. I will show how phenomena that look critical from isolated ASM studies do not necessarily scale for the intact airway. We will also use Hyperpolarized He3 MRI imaging to quantify how a whole lung constricts in asthmatics versus healthy lungs and how all of the scales are influenced by the dynamics of breathing itself.

About the Speaker

Dr. Kenneth R. Lutchen, is Dean of the College of Engineering and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University. He received his B.S. from the University of Virginia and the M.S. and Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University. Dr Lutchen has published over 125 peer-reviewed journal articles related to lung structure and function. Dean Lutchen was Chair of Biomedical Engineering from 1998-2006. He was the chief architect of their $14 million dollar Leadership Award from the Whitaker Foundation and a $5 million Translational Research Partnership Award from the Coulter Foundation. Dr. Lutchen is the Immediate Past-President of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). He has been on the Board of Directors for the Biomedical Engineering Society, served on scientific advisory boards for several bioengineering departments and colleges of engineering nationwide, and is a sitting member of an NIH Study Section. As Dean, Dr. Lutchen has orchestrated the creation of a new Division of Materials Science and Engineering and a new Division of Systems Engineering. He has also created new Concentration programs in Energy Technologies, in Nanotechnology, and in Technology Innovation. His focus is to transform engineering education to create the Societal Engineer™, an individual who combines their engineering foundation with particular attributes to address society’s challenges regardless of which direction or profession their careers engage. Since becoming Dean, undergraduate freshman enrollment has increased by 30% while SAT scores have increased by nearly 100 points and graduate funding per faculty has increased to 21st in the nation. The College’s Graduate Ranking in US News and World Report has improved from 52nd to 38th in the nation. Dr. Lutchen has been the recipient of the College of Engineering’s Professor of the Year Award and the Biomedical Engineering Professor of the Year Award — twice.