Computational modelling of maternal and fetal interactions in pregnancy

PhD Project

Textbooks talk of three types of blood vessels; arteries, capillaries, and veins, which all form tubes lined by endothelial cells. There is little mention of a blood vessel shaped like no other, and lined by a cell like no other, that feeds us all in the womb. This ‘vessel’ (the intervillous space (IVS)) enables flow of nutrient and oxygen rich blood around the branching villous tree of the fetal placenta, forming the largest and most complex blood space in the human body. The IVS is lined by a single, unique, multinucleated cell (the syncytiotrophoblast (STB)) that covers the entire placenta, forming a physical barrier between the maternal and fetal circulations. However, the STB does more than just line the IVS, it underpins maternal adaptation to pregnancy, nutrient transport, and healthy fetal growth.

In this project we will use computational modelling to understand how maternal blood flow across the placental surface impacts anatomical development and turnover of the STB. To do this we will combine modelling of blood flow, mechanical modelling of cell morphology and turnover, and agent based modelling. We will use real-world data from unique micro-fluidic and “placentoid” (organoid) models to develop and parameterise the modelling. Students with a strong mechanics background and an interest in biological applications would be well suited to this project.

Desired skills

  • A background in Mathematics, Physics or Mechanical/Biomedical Engineering
  • Strong programming skills, with python preferred and some experience in numerical solutions for fluid flow and/or continuum mechanics.



Contact and supervisors

For more information or to apply for this project, please follow the link to the supervisor below: