You are here

Advances in Computational Biomechanics of the Gastrointestinal System

Jae H. Lee, Johns Hopkins University

Neelesh A. Patankar, Northwestern University

Rajat Mittal, Johns Hopkins University

Wenjun Kou, Northwestern University

The human digestive system (i.e., the gastrointestinal or “GI” tract) consists of a series of specialized organs and glands, each of them playing a vital role in the breakdown and absorption of ingested food. Efficient and coordinated GI motility and timely secretion of enzymes are critical obtaining the energy required for survival, providing a barrier for toxic materials, interfacing with the microbiota and regulation of our immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. Conversely, GI dysfunction has serious consequences for gastroenterological disorders (such as gastroparesis and functional dyspepsia), enteric infections, as well as systemic disorders including metabolic (obesity/diabetes), neurological (Parkinson’s), and autoimmune conditions. In spite of the relative importance of GI function in overall human health, our understanding of the complex dynamics of different processes in the GI system remains rudimentary, thereby limiting our ability to treat these conditions. Computational biomechanical models have made significant inroads into medical research as well as clinical applications in the arenas of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory research, but modeling of digestion and GI biomechanics lags far behind these other arenas. The underlying reason for this knowledge/capability gap is the challenge of conducting studies of gastric biomechanics, multifluid/multiphase fluid dynamics, and gastric chemistry. The GI system also presents unique challenges for computational modeling due to the combination of several distinct physical phenomena like fluid-structure interaction, electromechanical feedback, and microscopic tissue surface effects on flow during normal function. These features must be incorporated to build reliable simulation tools, and this makes modeling bolus/chyme transport and digestion a truly multiphysics problem spanning several length scales. Developing these tools is of paramount importance because they can be used to further our understanding of fundamental GI processes. This can directly lead to the development of useful physiomarkers to enhance diagnosis and phenotyping of various diseases. These tools can also aid in patient-specific planning for surgical interventions, and in the development of novel medical devices for GI disorders. In this minisymposium, we will bring together researchers from all over the world to present their research on GI biomechanics. A wide range of research topics from fundamental science to clinical translation will be covered.