SYM-01: Bioengineering the Heart


Poul Nielsen, Andrew Taberner

Auckland Bioengineering Institute, The University of Auckland, New Zealand

It is difficult to identify properties of living systems. Current approaches are typically reductionist, where experiments are performed on isolated and/ or simplified parts of the system. Experiments are designed to yield measurements that are simple to interpret and can be readily associated with system parameters. Such approaches are inappropriate for systems that cannot be decomposed into subsystems without changing the system behaviour. In living organisms, isolating parts of the system can result in markedly changed behaviour because the subsystem is removed from its supporting environment.

We need to develop new ways of designing experiments that can enable us to efficiently and accurately identify parameters that characterise living systems while maintaining the organisms/tissues/ cells in as natural environment as possible. One way to achieve this goal is to use complex preparations, but interpret measurements via models that represent the underlying biophysics. Identification of relevant parameters that characterise the system then becomes an optimisation problem where the objective is to find parameters which provide model predictions that best match observed measurements. In this way we can free ourselves from the constraints of requiring simple preparations, at the expense of more expensive analysis of measurements.

This talk will consider how such model-based approaches have guided the development of new bioinstrumentation developed at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute.

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