Penn State University researchers are imaging the human digestive system to better understand the fluid and nutrient dynamics that go on down there.
From the National Science Foundation:
Just as an artist represents depth and molds a material to produce a visual shape, James Brasseur and his multidisciplinary team are rendering their own art through their research at Penn State University. The research team is imaging the macroscopic transport processes moving intestinal fluid. Brasseur specializes in mechano-physiology, mathematical modeling, computer simulation and image analysis of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In describing his work, Brasseur says, “My job is to solve medical problems that require engineering input. I focus on two classes of problems: neurophysiology of the GI tract, and the clinical evaluation and therapy.”
With the help of his group–composed of Yanxing Wang, students Gino Banco and Amit Ailiani, and his co-investigator, Andrew Webb–Brasseur is studying the modeling of nutrient transport and macro-micro mixing in the small intestine. The group has developed a two-dimensional, multi-scale model using the Lattice Boltzmann Method (LBM).
“LBM is a computational tool for analyzing our bioengineering problems,” states Brasseur. LBM predicts the behavior of the fluid motions mathematically to model macro-to-micro mixing and transport in the gut. Currently, Dr. Brasseur and his group are extending a two-dimensional LBM to a three-dimensional study of how the villi aid the digestion process.
Brasseur is comparing the nutrient transport of the digestion process at macro and micro levels. “We are trying to understand how the villi movements help digestion. We think that it would help digestion because it brings the nutrients in contact with the epithelium more quickly than if weren’t moving.”
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