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(A*STAR) Multimodal data-based modelling for precision obstetrics medicine

Project Description

The placenta is responsible for sustaining fetal life and enabling fetal growth during pregnancy. It is characterised by a unique complex arrangement of densely packed fetal blood vessels drawing oxygen and nutrients from maternal blood. In up to 10% of pregnancies, placental function is compromised, resulting in babies that fail to grow to their full potential. This condition (fetal growth restriction) can have lifelong consequences, including higher risks of heart disease, diabetes or stroke later in life. Despite rapid developments in the field of medical diagnostics, there are still no significant technological advances in obstetrics medicine over the last 50 years since the introduction of ultrasonography. Thus, there is urgent need to better understand and quantify the placental function and structure relationship to aid in the early detection and management of high-risk pregnancies.

Image-based modelling has the potential to reveal how disruption of this intricate structure in disease impacts placental function. We have developed a system using X-ray micro-CT technology to image vascular casts of the feto- placental vascular tree in normal and abnormal placentas and characterise their structure. The structural data is complemented by a unique large clinical dataset of Doppler ultrasound measurements on the blood flow that enters and leaves the placenta at different stages of pregnancy. Our recent work has only started to explore the potential of the imaging technology; mathematical, computational and machine-learning approaches are now needed to characterise the vessel network structure and to integrate it with functional observations at the whole-organ level. Using existing and emerging data, we will develop multiscale models of the placental circulation, which can be validated against clinical data, and will use these models to assess nutrient transport in normal and abnormal placentas.

The project will suit a student with a degree in applied mathematics, physics, bioengineering or a related area who has enthusiasm to join an interdisciplinary group to work on a challenging biomedical application with strong potential to transform clinical practice.

Entry Requirements:
Applications should be submitted online and candidates should make direct contact with the Manchester supervisor to discuss their application directly. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding Notes

This project is available to UK/EU candidates. Funding covers fees (UK/EU rate) and stipend for four years. Overseas candidates can apply providing they can pay the difference in fees and are from an eligible country. Candidates will be required to split their time between Manchester and Singapore, as outlined on View Website.

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.


Jensen OE & Chernyavsky IL (2019) Blood flow and transport in the human placenta. Ann. Rev. Fluid Mech. 51:25-47

Erlich A, Pearce P, Mayo RP, Jensen OE & Chernyavsky IL (2019) Physical and geometric determinants of transport in fetoplacental microvascular networks. Sci. Adv. 5:eaav6326 (

Saw SN, Poh YW, Chia D, Biswas A, Mattar CNZ & Yap CH (2018) Characterization of the hemodynamic wall shear stresses in human umbilical vessels from normal and intrauterine growth restricted pregnancies. Biomech. Model. Mechanobiol. 17:1107 (

Johnstone E (2018). The rise and rise of angiogenic biomarkers in the third trimester of pregnancy. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health 2 (

Nye GA, Ingram E, Johnstone ED, Jensen OE, Schneider H, Lewis RM, Chernyavsky IL & Brownbill P (2018) Human placental oxygenation in late gestation: experimental and theoretical approaches. J. Physiol. 596:5523 (

Junaid TO, Bradley RS, Lewis RM, Aplin JD & Johnstone ED (2017) Whole organ vascular casting and microCT examination of the human placental vascular tree reveals novel alterations associated with pregnancy disease. Sci. Rep. 7:4144 (

How good is research at The University of Manchester in Mathematical Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 54.40

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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