Randles Receives NSF CAREER Award to Model the Movement of Cells Through Fluid

May 6, 2020

Competitive five-year grant will help Amanda Randles create a computational model to explore how different types of cells flow through fluid

Amanda Randles

Amanda Randles

Amanda Randles, the Alfred Winborne and Victoria Stover Mordecai Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences, has been awarded a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award. The competitive, five-year, $500,000 grant for outstanding young faculty will support Randles’s work to establish a computational framework that allows researchers to study how fluids and various cellular structures interact.   

Randles’s work involves using supercomputers to simulate how blood, particles and cells travel through veins and arteries in the body. Her main project is a massively parallel fluid dynamics simulation, known as HARVEY, that is capable of modeling the full human arterial system at subcellular resolution. Randles developed HARVEY with the goal of using the technology to improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of human diseases.

With the CAREER Award, Randles will build on her work with HARVEY to develop a model that specifically explores how different cells, like red blood cells and immune cells, and particles interact as they flow through fluid. By connecting this new modeling framework to virtual reality, researchers will have an unprecedented opportunity to explore how mechanical properties influence various cells and particles as they spread through the vascular system.  Liam Kraus LLNL

“The computational models are especially helpful because you can control very specific parameters of your experiment that you couldn’t do with in vitro models, like cell stiffness, size or shape,” says Randles. “Modeling these different parameters gives us a more comprehensive view about how cells or nanoparticles can travel through the body, and we can use that understanding to create and test therapies to see how they change specific outcomes.”

Randles and her team are hoping to use this new tool to explore diseases that affect red blood cells, like malaria and sickle-cell anemia, and to better study processes like nanoparticle drug delivery.

The team will also collaborate with the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, North Carolina, to develop simulations that show children how cells can move through the body. These pre-packaged simulations will appear in virtual reality, where students will be able to ‘surround’ themselves with different cells and follow their movement through the body.

“The goal of this part of the project is to create curricula to expose young kids to the power of personalized modeling, supercomputers and the next generation of medicine,” says Randles. “It’s been really exciting to work with the Museum of Life and Science as we put this together.”

“I’m thrilled to be recognized with the CAREER Award, and I’m very grateful to use this opportunity to pursue this exciting project,” says Randles. “I think this framework will be widely usable and help us illustrate what’s possible by combining cutting edge VR technology with leadership class supercomputers.”