Reproductive systems

Our groups aim to improve reproductive system health through life by providing a better understanding of the physiology of organs in this system using computational modelling and novel engineering technologies.

We have three major areas of research focusing on the reproductive system: looking to improve pregnancy health, breast health, and to understand the risk of pelvic floor injury in childbirth.

Our research

Pregnancy Health

The Pregnancy Health group aims to improve health in pregnancy and early childhood by providing a better understanding of physiology in the critical developmental period. We use data-driven computational models to provide a new understanding of the important contributors to healthy development and to interpret clinical data obtained in early-life.

A major contributor to poor fetal health in pregnancy is placental dysfunction. The placenta is a unique organ which develops on demand and is associated with serious complications of pregnancy. We don't know whether this abnormal structure is a cause or consequence of the pregnancy complication in many cases, and imaging the placenta in an ongoing pregnancy is very difficult as it changes so quickly and many medical imaging procedures can’t be done in pregnancy. We are piecing together evidence that describes normal and abnormal placental structure and function through pregnancy to develop a ‘virtual placenta’. We are using this virtual placenta to better understand what can go wrong in pregnancy and to help develop tools to identify 'at risk' pregnancies more accurately.

Breast health

New Zealand women have a 10% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. Women self-identified as Māori have a twofold higher risk of developing breast cancer than non-Māori. Early detection by x-ray mammography of the compressed breast offers the best chance of survival. However, small tumours are often difficult to identify because of poor image contrast and lack of reliability in reproducing the large deformations of breast tissue during compression.

The Biomechanics for Breast Imaging Group’s goal is to develop a computational framework based upon a quantitative biomechanical model of the human breast, to assist radiologists with the interpretation of x-ray mammograms and other breast imaging modalities, such as MRI and ultrasound. Reliable software tools of this kind will improve breast cancer detection.

Childbirth

The Pelvic Floor Research Group are developing a quantitative understanding of the anatomy and function of the pelvic floor muscles in women. We are also investigating the mechanisms of pelvic floor muscle failure, and the development of pelvic organ prolapse in women.

Our approach relies on a physiome-style combination of computational and mathematical modelling, the development and testing of novel bio-instrumentation and medical devices, and quantitative data from experimental and clinical studies.We are also interested in quantifying the role of pelvic floor physiotherapy for both preventative purposes and rehabilitation of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction.

Members

Primary contact

Alys Clark
Email: alys.clark@auckland.ac.nz
Phone: +64 9 923 5604

Academics

David Budgett
Alys Clark (Pregnancy Health)
Thiranja Prasad Babarenda Gamage (Breast Health)
Jenny Kruger (Pelvic Floor)
Anna Mira
Martyn Nash
Poul Nielsen
Andrew Taberner

Students

Monika Byrne
Melissa Davidson
Chun Meng (Alex) Goh
Izza Ismail
Rachel Jones
Laura Pedofsky
Win Min Tun

International links

  • Australia: University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales and University of Sydney
  • Canada: University of Montreal and University of Sherbrooke
  • UK: University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University of Sheffield
  • US: Oregon Health Sciences University