Research in the Passerini Lab focuses on revealing the origins of atherosclerosis, the inflammation of arteries that underlies cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death and disability. A central focus of the work is the elucidation of mechanisms by which hemodynamics (blood flow) can locally modulate inflammatory responses in endothelial cells that line the blood vessels, which has ramifications for understanding the non-random distribution of atherosclerosis in arteries and among individuals.
The lab applies artery-on-a-chip microfluidic tools to study the signaling mechanisms by which mechanical cues imparted by blood flow converge with other factors driven by diet and metabolism to sensitize the arteries to pathological change. This work has provided insight into the links between unhealthy diets, lipid metabolism, and endothelial inflammatory responses that mark among the earliest changes promoting atherosclerosis. The ultimate goals are to better predict cardiovascular risk and to reduce the burden of human disease.