Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Strength in Numbers
18 November 2016

Strength in Numbers

Aim accurate maths at messy biology and the results can be very powerful. Mathematical models simulate heart beats, the spread of diseases and, here, contractions in the uterus of a pregnant woman. Using little more than numbers and algebra, researchers create an abstract version of the uterus that can be prodded and poked in ways that would be impossible at sensitive stages of pregnancy. Red arrows represent electrical signals moving down muscle fibres in the uterine wall. By taking electrical measurements from the outside of the real abdomen, researchers find the virtual uterus with the random muscle pattern (right) produces contractions much closer to real life than the directed pattern on the left. Future versions of the model might simulate patterns of contractions in different expectant mothers, and even predict the likelihood of premature birth.

Written by John Ankers

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