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Shier Nee Saw

Understand the problems in IUGR pregnancy & explore novel techniques to better detect and treat IUGR

Intrauterine growth restriction is a pregnancy complication in which the fetus is not growing at a normal rate due to placenta insufficiency. The prevalence of this disease is 3% in developed country and up to 10-15% in developing country. IUGR babies suffer 5-10x higher mortality and life-long morbidity risk and unfortunately, there is no treatment for IUGR.

It has been reported that the umbilical and placenta vascular size in IUGR was significant smaller as compared to that of in normal cases. The reduction of vascular size in IUGR increases the placenta flow resistance significantly as the flow resistance is inversely proportional to the 4th power of the diameter, thus restricting the blood flow to fetus.

Wall shear stress has been know to affect the growth and remodeling of the vessels, whereby endothelial cells will response to the shear stress and maintain the shear stress at physiological level. For example, increased shear stress will cause vasodilation while decreased shear stress will cause vasoconstriction.

In my research, I focus on understanding the growth and remodeling of the vascular vessels. I keen to investigate whether the IUGR vascular vessels response to shear stress. Does the reduction of vascular size in IUGR caused by abnormal shear stress level or caused by other factors.

One of the ways to study the flow during the pregnancy is to acquire ultrasound images and perform simulation based on the ultrasound measurements. This allows us to study the in vivo patient-specific flow hemodynamics.

I hope, with my research findings, we can understand more on this idiopathic disease and novel strategies can be derived to treat IUGR.


Large variations in absolute wall shear stress levels within one species and between species.

Abstract: Wall shear stress (WSS), the frictional force between blood and endothelium, is an important determinant of vascular function. It is generally assumed that WSS remains constant at a reference value of 15 dyn/cm(2). In a study of small rodents, we realized that this assumption could not be valid. This review presents an overview of recent studies in large and small animals where shear stress was measured, derived from velocity measurements or otherwise, in large vessels. The data show that large variations exist within a single species (human: variation of 2-16 N/m(2)). Moreover, when we compared different species at the same location within the arterial tree, an inverse relationship between animal size and wall shear stress was noted. When we related WSS to diameter, a unique relationship was derived for all species studied. This relationship could not be described by the well-known r(3) law of Murray, but by the r(2) law introduced by Zamir et al. in 1972. In summary, by comparing data from the literature, we have shown that: (i) the assumption of a physiological WSS level of approximately 15 dyn/cm(2) for all straight vessels in the arterial tree is incorrect; (ii) WSS is not constant throughout the vascular tree; (iii) WSS varies between species; (iv) WSS is inversely related to the vessel diameter. These data support an "r(2) law" rather than Murray's r(3) law for the larger vessels in the arterial tree.

Pub.: 16 Dec '06, Pinned: 27 Aug '17

The hemodynamics of late-onset intrauterine growth restriction by MRI.

Abstract: Late-onset intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) results from a failure of the placenta to supply adequate nutrients and oxygen to the rapidly growing late-gestation fetus. Limitations in current monitoring methods present the need for additional techniques for more accurate diagnosis of IUGR in utero. New magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology now provides a noninvasive technique for fetal hemodynamic assessment, which could provide additional information over conventional Doppler methods.The objective of the study was to use new MRI techniques to measure hemodynamic parameters and brain growth in late-onset IUGR fetuses.This was a prospective observational case control study to compare the flow and T2 of blood in the major fetal vessels and brain imaging findings using MRI. Indexed fetal oxygen delivery and consumption were calculated. Middle cerebral artery and umbilical artery pulsatility indexes and cerebroplacental ratio were acquired using ultrasound. A score of ≥ 2 of the 4 following parameters defined IUGR: (1) birthweight the third centile or less or 20% or greater drop in the centile in estimated fetal weight; (2) lowest cerebroplacental ratio after 30 weeks less than the fifth centile; (3) ponderal index < 2.2; and (4) placental histology meets predefined criteria for placental underperfusion. Measurements were compared between the 2 groups (Student t test) and correlations between parameters were analyzed (Pearson's correlation). MRI measurements were compared with Doppler parameters for identifying IUGR defined by postnatal criteria (birthweight, placental histology, ponderal index) using receiver-operating characteristic curves.We studied 14 IUGR and 26 non-IUGR fetuses at 35 weeks' gestation. IUGR fetuses had lower umbilical vein (P = .004) and pulmonary blood flow (P = .01) and higher superior vena caval flow (P < .0001) by MRI. IUGR fetuses had asymmetric growth but smaller brains than normal fetuses (P < .0001). Newborns with IUGR also had smaller brains with otherwise essentially normal findings on MRI. Vessel T2s, oxygen delivery, oxygen consumption, middle cerebral artery pulsatility index, and cerebroplacental ratio were all significantly lower in IUGR fetuses, whereas there was no significant difference in umbilical artery pulsatility index. IUGR score correlated positively with superior vena caval flow and inversely with oxygen delivery, oxygen consumption, umbilical vein T2, and cerebroplacental ratio. Receiver-operating characteristic curves revealed equivalent performance of MRI and Doppler techniques in identifying IUGR that was defined based on postnatal parameters with superior vena caval flow area under the curve of 0.94 (95% confidence interval, 0.87-1.00) vs a cerebroplacental ratio area under the curve of 0.80 (95% confidence interval, 0.64-0.97).MRI revealed the expected circulatory redistribution in response to hypoxia in IUGR fetuses. The reduced oxygen delivery in IUGR fetuses indicated impaired placental oxygen transport, whereas reduced oxygen consumption presumably reflected metabolic adaptation to diminished substrate delivery, resulting in slower fetal growth. Despite brain sparing, placental insufficiency limits fetal brain growth. Superior vena caval flow and umbilical vein T2 by MRI may be useful new markers of late-onset IUGR.

Pub.: 18 Oct '15, Pinned: 27 Aug '17

Characterization of the in vivo wall shear stress environment of human fetus umbilical arteries and veins.

Abstract: The endothelial cells of the umbilical vessels are frequently used in mechanobiology experiments. They are known to respond to wall shear stress (WSS) of blood flow, which influences vascular growth and remodeling. The in vivo environment of umbilical vascular WSS, however, is not well characterized. In this study, we performed detailed characterization of the umbilical vascular WSS environments using clinical ultrasound scans combined with computational simulations. Doppler ultrasound scans of 28 normal human fetuses from 32nd to 33rd gestational weeks were investigated. Vascular cross-sectional areas were quantified through 3D reconstruction of the vascular geometry from 3D B-mode ultrasound images, and flow velocities were quantified through pulse wave Doppler. WSS in umbilical vein was computed with Poiseuille's equation, whereas WSS in umbilical artery was obtained via computational fluid dynamics simulations of the helical arterial geometry. Results showed that blood flow velocity for umbilical artery and vein did not correlate with vascular sizes, suggesting that velocity had a very weak trend with or remained constant over vascular sizes. Average WSS for umbilical arteries and vein was 2.81 and 0.52 Pa, respectively. Umbilical vein WSS showed a significant negative correlation with the vessel diameter, but umbilical artery did not show any correlation. We hypothesize that this may be due to differential regulation of vascular sizes based on WSS sensing. Due to the helical geometry of umbilical arteries, bending of the umbilical cord did not significantly alter the vascular resistance or WSS, unlike that in the umbilical veins. We hypothesize that the helical shape of umbilical arteries may be an adaptation feature to render a higher constancy of WSS and flow in the arteries despite umbilical cord bending.

Pub.: 28 Jul '16, Pinned: 27 Aug '17