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Data analysis and computational modelling of embryo growth rate and other metrics of success in In-Vitro Fertilization

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  • Full or part time
    Dr K Kaouri
    Dr TE Woolley
    Prof K Swann
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This PhD project will tackle two important challenges in In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and it is an exciting academia-industry collaboration of the Cardiff School of Mathematics with the School of Biosciences and with the London Women’s Clinic Wales (LWC). LWC are also co-funding the project. The two challenges to tackle are: 1) selecting the best embryo and; 2) optimal embryo storage and management. The first challenge involves data extraction and statistical modelling and the second challenge involves modelling the heat distribution in thawing embryos after their cryopreservation.

Challenge 1: Selecting the best embryo
A key factor for success during In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycle is choosing the best quality embryo to transfer to the patient, to maximise the chances for a successful pregnancy. Current methods, such as time-lapse imaging, or metabolic profiling, are respectively unproven or difficult to implement.

The aim is to develop a sophisticated, user-friendly image segmentation software tool that will accurately extract multiple features of a thawing embryo’s time-lapse images. This tool is not available currently in the IVF field and it will greatly speed up and eventually automate the extraction of multiple embryo features, while eliminating variable human error. Also, in IVF clinics only single focal frames of embryos are monitored currently; the software tool will extract the full 3D structure of embryos.

Data from hundreds of embryos will be extracted and then be processed with a meta-statistical analysis. A variety of different embryo quality metrics suggested in the IVF field will be assessed, to see which metric of combination of metrics correlates with embryo success.

Challenge 2: Modelling the temperature of embryos
The second challenge, which run in parallel with the first depending on the skill of the student, will focus on the handling of thawing embryos and modelling their temperature.

Whenever embryos are transported, or inspected, it is imperative that their temperature is carefully controlled, to avoid damaging them. The inspection stage is the most critical as the embryo is removed from the storage liquid (liquid nitrogen) for observation and then re-immersed. Although this inspection is the most important stage for temperature control there are currently no protocols on how long it would take the embryo to heat beyond the point of damage.

We will thus develop a computational model for the temperature evolution in the embryo, using a heterogeneous three-dimensional heat transfer model. With the model we will predict exact time and conditions at which the embryos become damaged for different storage and observation scenarios in this way paving the way to creating a protocol.

Goals
The student, while being supervised by an interdisciplinary team, will:
• Build a close collaboration with LWC and gain a thorough understanding of processes, procedures and protocols.
• Develop image segmentation skills and heat transfer modelling skills.
• Work with LWC to automatically extract quantitative data from time-lapse embryo images.
• Employ statistical methods to correlate embryo data with the probability for pregnancy.
• Develop and simulate a computational 3D model for the temperature evolution of embryos, comparing, where possible, with analytically derived approximations. This would lead to the design of a protocol for handling embryos during inspection.

Funding Notes

You MUST
*have a home or work address in the East Wales region (The East Wales region is comprised of 7 local authorities: Cardiff, Flintshire, Monmouthshire, Newport, Powys, Vale of Glamorgan and Wrexham) at the time of your application for KESS2 funding and your enrolment for the course of study
*have a legal right to live and work in the UK for the duration of the KESS2 support, and the right to take up paid work in the East Wales region on completion of the scholarship
*classified as a ‘home’ or ‘EU’ student.

References

Please check the eligibility criteria carefully before applying.
Eligible applicants should submit an application for postgraduate study via the Cardiff University Online Application Service.
Applicants should select Doctor of Philosophy (Mathematics) with an entry date of October 2019
In the "Research proposal and Funding" section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project and copy the project description in the text box provided.
Please add “KESS2 PhD in Mathematics" when asked "Please provide the name of the funding you are applying for".
Expected interview date: Week starting 9th September 2019

How good is research at Cardiff University in Mathematical Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.05

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

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