Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Mathematical modelling of the human body

Some engineers apply computer models to test new designs of aeroplane wings or engines. EU-funded researchers have used them to study the human respiratory tract and the vascular system.
Mathematical modelling of the human body
Computational methods are increasingly used to reconstruct complex biological systems by converting segmented medical data of vessels and airways into robust, simulation-ready models. These mathematical models promise valuable insights by approaching problems in a different way.

However, multi-scale simulations are necessary to model human physiology accurately. Recently, EU-funded researchers developed integrated models enabling simulation of fluid flow problems using a wide range of resources – from clusters to supercomputing facilities.

Within the EU-funded project MATCOMPHYS (Mathematical models and high performance computing for deposition and absorption in physiological flows), researchers developed numerical tools to simulate the flow of inspired air through the respiratory tract until it reaches the lungs and the microcirculation of blood.

Specifically, the researchers constructed a 3D model of the respiratory airways based on real medical scan data. Using this extensive and detailed model, large-scale simulations were performed on two of the largest supercomputers in Europe, FERMI in Italy and MareNostrum in Spain.

Thanks to the high resolution of the model, intricate details of the flow of air inspired in the upper and lower respiratory tracts were unravelled. The flow in the nasal passage was found to remain constrained. As air reached the throat, a higher velocity was attained and the flow became turbulent.

Numerical simulations were also carried out to study the flow of blood through the complex network of branching vessels with length of a few micrometres through which nutrients, oxygen and cells are delivered throughout the body. The results revealed the intricate motion of blood cells as they collide, influencing the transport process.

The application of fluid dynamics – or any other engineering discipline – to medicine is relatively new. The research of the MATCOMPHYS project team at the interface of engineering, biology and medicine shows the importance of interdisciplinary work. There is a lot more that engineering has to offer in learning how the human body works.

Related information


Human body, respiratory tract, mathematical models, MATCOMPHYS, microcirculation
Record Number: 181132 / Last updated on: 2016-04-27
Domain: Industrial Technologies