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Seminar: The Role of Microcalcifications in Vulnerable Plaque Rupture, the Largest Cause of Cardiovascular Death
Sheldon Weinbaum, Distinguished Research Professor, City University of New York

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Distinguished Scholar Lecture
Friday, March 7, 2014
1:30 p.m.
Schwada Classroom Office Building (SCOB) 250 [map]
Reception to follow 

Weinbaum lecture

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The fissure or tear of the fibrous cap overlying the lipid pool in fibroatheroma accounts for more than half of all cardiovascular deaths. Why some fibrous caps rupture and others do not is probably the single most important unresolved question in acute coronary syndromes. While it is widely assumed that tears occur where tissue tensile stresses are high, the initiating mechanism remains a mystery. Paradoxically, 40% of ruptures occur at the center of the fibrous cap and not at the shoulders where FEA indicates that the highest tissue stresses occur. In this presentation Weinbaum will examine a new paradigm that the causative event is the explosive growth of tiny voids associated with microcalcifications (µCalcs) that are too small to be seen in IVUS, MRI or OCT. He will show, using high resolution µCT and new immunostaining techniques that do not require decalcification for sectioning, that the culprit µCalcs are small aggregations of fused calcified matrix vesicles and then demonstrate using multiscale 3-D FEA that these µCals act as local stress concentrators which when closely spaced can cause local increases in tissue stress in the fibrous cap that can easily exceed the measured rupture threshold.

Sheldon Weinbaum received his BAE degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1959, his M.S. degree in Applied Physics from Harvard in 1960 and his Ph.D. degree in 1963, also from Harvard. Most recently he has proposed a new hypothesis for vulnerable plaque rupture and a new concept for an airborne jet train that skis on a soft porous track within centimeters of the earth’s surface at speeds approaching jet aircraft with 1/5 their fuel consumption. He is one of five living individuals elected to all three U.S. National Academies (NAS, NAE,IOM) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the only engineer to have received a Guggenheim in the area of cell and molecular biology. Read his full biosketch on the attached flier.

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