Chris Waters, PhD

UK physiologist uses biomechanics to understand lung healing

Lung, UK Medical Research

Chris Waters, PhD, has always been curious about how things worked. His inquiring mind led him on a path from chemical engineering to biomedical engineering to his current work on a dangerous condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

The mortality rate for this acute lung injury is high – almost 40 percent of ARDS patients die. Appropriate mechanical ventilation makes a huge difference in their prognosis. 

Waters, who is the Dr. Donald T. Frazier Professor of Physiology in the UK College of Medicine, is on a quest to figure out why exactly mechanical ventilation is so beneficial. 

“Typically, a wound’s healing process occurs on a substrate that’s not moving,” Waters said. “But with the act of breathing, the lungs constantly stretch and retract. So how does healing happen in spite of this constant movement?”

Waters’ work is supported by two grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. He began these projects before he came to UK in December 2017 with his wife, Teresa Waters, who is the Charles T. Wethington Jr. Endowed Chair in the Health Sciences. But he says new collaborations with UK researchers in chemistry and mechanical engineering will greatly enhance his work.

“UK is really on the upswing in terms of research,” he said.

Watch our interview with Waters to learn more about his research and how he became interested in ARDS.


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