Goffer's work focuses on the hemodynamics that are created as support devices work in tandem with the failing heart
Sometimes when life-saving machines become available to clinicians and their patients, the work to fully understand their efficacy is just beginning.
In the Edelman Lab, Harvard-MIT Biomedical Engineering Center, Efrat “Efi” Goffer, an HST Medical Engineering and Medical Physics (MEMP) PhD student, is using modeling and patient data to study the effects of cardiac support devices on the body. A relatively new technology, these support devices supplement circulation of blood flow for patients with cardiogenic shock, a condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Elazer Edelman, MD, PhD, the MIT Edward J. Poitras Professor in Medical Engineering and Science Professor—is an HST MD ’83, HST MEMP PhD ’84 graduate, and is also the director of IMES.
HST is an interdisciplinary educational program focused on translational medical science and engineering; and IMES, an integrative force for human health research and education, is HST’s home at MIT.
Efi’s research is exciting as there is much about the specific usage of these machines and how the body reacts to them that remains to be understood.
“Patients with very similar conditions could be treated completely differently in different clinics,” Efi explains. “We’re still in trial-and-error phase with these devices. There's no gold standard. Understanding more about the interaction between the mechanical support device and the cardiovascular systems will allow us to develop better treatment standards and improve outcomes for patients.”
Efi’s work focuses on the hemodynamics that are created as support devices work in tandem with the failing heart. Because these devices create a continuous flow of blood (rather than the native pulsating heart), there are likely short- and long-term effects on the body that have not yet been fully determined. How does this hybrid flow affect the cardiovascular system? Does it further stress the failing heart? How does it affect brain perfusion?
This kind of work, Efi says, reflects the unique power of the HST and IMES programs: cutting-edge questions rooted in research that are highly applicable in clinical settings.
Thanks to support from the Termeer fellowship, named and bestowed in honor of biotechnology pioneer Henri Termeer, Efi’s work at IMES allows her to combine a life-long love for medicine and physiology with her undergrad background in mechanical engineering to create devices that improve patient outcomes. She explains how pairing engineering study with hands-on clinical experience as part of a hospital team helps to close the gap between a mechanical mindset and a patient-oriented one.
“You need to really understand what's going on, on the other side… what is the doctor's workflow? How does the hospital operate? If the device is great, but very time consuming to prepare, no one is going to use it,” she says. “Our program guides you towards research that is translatable to the clinic. It's has far exceeded my expectations—it’s eye-opening and it has really shifted my way of thinking.”