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Using Mathematical Models to Improve Prenatal Care
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Using Mathematical Models to Improve Prenatal Care

Exploring response of human tissue to the physical stresses of pregnancy

A research team from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), funded under the 8th cycle of QNRF’s flagship National Priorities Research Program (NPRP), has created a digital 3D mathematical model to predict how human tissue responds to the physical stresses of pregnancy that may lead to the development of a new tool for doctors to measure the risk of miscarriage or pre-term delivery.

The research project titled “New Mathematical Models for the Large Strain Swelling Response of Biological Tissues: Applications to Edema, Inflammation, and Pregnancy” (Proposal number: NPRP8-2424-1-477), was led by Prof. Thomas Pence who worked along Dr. Hasan Demirkoparan and Dr. Heiko Topol, to develop a model that can be particularly useful in the area of personalized medicine in prenatal care. The model uses information from patients’ scans to help doctors forecast and adjust treatment to accommodate a woman’s risk for pre-term delivery or miscarriage.

“We have approached this question from a mathematical and mechanical engineering perspective,” said Dr. Topol. “Biological modeling is not an obvious topic for a mathematician and a mechanical engineer, so we have read a lot about the different factors and stresses on human tissue.”

Pence and Demirkoparan began studying the mathematics of soft tissue swelling around a decade ago when he was awarded a research grant from QNRF under the 4th cycle of NPRP for a research project titled, “New Mathematical Models for the Large Strain Swelling Response of Biological Tissues” (Proposal number: NPRP4-1138-1-178) to study how hyperelastic materials respond to stress and swelling as well as predict when and how different organ systems in the body can maintain a healthy status from a biomechanics perspective.  .

Team leader Professor Thomas Pence indicates that this pregnancy simulation modeling is unique in its ability to account for the simultaneous effects of pressure, organ swelling, and internal changes to the tissue collagen content. He states that, “We are extremely grateful for the funding support to develop the theoretical tools and computational simulation procedures that provide this unique capability.”

Similarly, Dr. Demirkoparan notes, “There is a direct correlation between the length of the cervix during pregnancy and pre-term labor.” He further adds, “If we can use mathematics to provide a tool for doctors to better predict, and perhaps mitigate, pre-term births, that would be very gratifying.”

The research team can see many ways in which their research can lead to better diagnostic tools in medicine, including the way arteries and veins respond to stress. As they look ahead, they would like to bring in experts from other disciplines to enhance the model and apply it to a medical setting and hope that their successful creation of collagenous tissue will contribute a lot to this area of investigation.

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