Eliason Lab

The Eliason Lab, led by Dr. Jonathan L. Eliason, seeks to understand and treat vascular trauma and aortic aneurysms.

Current Research in the Eliason Laboratory

The Eliason Laboratory, led by Dr. Jonathan L. Eliason, pursues two key focal areas: uncontrolled hemorrhage in trauma, including the development of medical devices for hemorrhage-control, and understanding how abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) form. Our work on controlling hemorrhage due to trauma, particularly in austere environments, grew out of Dr. Eliason's experience in the U.S. Air Force, seeing firsthand just how critical hemorrhage control is to the early survival of injured military personnel and civilians. We have since developed a novel device to control bleeding and hemorrhagic shock. Our scientific work also looks at many parameters of bleeding to identify risk factors and how to diminish them.

Our work to understand why and how AAAs form looks at the role of smoking, both of cigarettes and e-cigarettes or vaping. We know that the process of aneurysm formation is complex, with many contributing factors. Smoking is involved in about 80% of cases of AAA. Our lab has looked at tobacco and cigarette smoke extract as well as e-cigarette vapor, trying to learn precisely how they impact the aorta and promote aortic injury. The overarching goal of our work is to improve our understanding and treatment of vascular trauma and abdominal aortic aneurysm to improve survival and quality of life.

The Problem

Traumatic injury is especially lethal in austere environments, like those of most combat situations. To help prevent hemorrhagic shock and lengthen the survival window following trauma, we have co-developed a novel device to control bleeding from pelvic and abdominal injuries that can be used in resource-limited settings. But not all patients benefit, and prolonged use of the device can have serious complications.

When we talk about vascular damage related to smoking, we know there are harms. With e-cigarette use rising — including among individuals who are trying to quit smoking — and outpacing that of regular cigarettes among some populations, a critical need exists to understand the effects. We're especially interested in the underlying mechanisms that contribute to and accelerate the development of AAA.

The Approach

In our hemorrhage control work, we look at the effects of prolonged balloon occlusion in the context of traumatic injury. As with other studies related to trauma, the wide variability in injury patterns and patient populations as well as other factors make it challenging to determine the most optimal ways of intervening. Our smoking and aneurysm development work is identifying several important regulatory mechanisms that are affected by e-cigarette vapor and impact the aorta. Work in both areas of research continues in order to better understand these pathways and mechanisms.

Contributions to Science

Dr. Eliason co-developed the ER-REBOA™ catheter (Eliason – Rasmussen Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta), a balloon catheter to staunch blood flow to the lower body but keep blood circulating to the brain, heart and lungs following a traumatic injury. Drs. Eliason and Rasmussen are credited with bringing this approach to hemorrhage control to austere and combat environments.

Since its approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2015, the ER-REBOA™ device has been used in Level 1 civilian trauma centers and emergency departments across the United States. The military has added REBOA to its clinical practice guidelines for hemorrhage control. The work has shown the physiologic impact of balloon occlusion, including prolonged occlusion, and our research is helping optimize REBOA use for traumatic injury to save lives and improve survivors' quality of life. 

Our group was the first to demonstrate in vitro that cigarette smoke extract led to changes in signaling molecules that are important to the formation of aortic aneurysm. Emerging findings from our small animal studies continue to identify chronic effects of smoking as well as e-cigarette use on the formation and progression of AAA.

Dr. Eliason discusses the research being conducted in his laboratory.