Image-Based Modeling of Blood Flow and Oxygen Transfer in Feto-Placental Capillaries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • External authors:
  • Philip Pearce
  • Jiri Janacek
  • Marie Jirkovska
  • Lucie Kubinova

Abstract

During pregnancy, oxygen diffuses from maternal to fetal blood through villous trees in the placenta. In this paper, we simulate blood flow and oxygen transfer in feto-placental capillaries by converting three-dimensional representations of villous and capillary surfaces, reconstructed from confocal laser scanning microscopy, to finite-element meshes, and calculating values of vascular flow resistance and total oxygen transfer. The relationship between the total oxygen transfer rate and the pressure drop through the capillary is shown to be captured across a wide range of pressure drops by physical scaling laws and an upper bound on the oxygen transfer rate. A regression equation is introduced that can be used to estimate the oxygen transfer in a capillary using the vascular resistance. Two techniques for quantifying the effects of statistical variability, experimental uncertainty and pathological placental structure on the calculated properties are then introduced. First, scaling arguments are used to quantify the sensitivity of the model to uncertainties in the geometry and the parameters. Second, the effects of localized dilations in fetal capillaries are investigated using an idealized axisymmetric model, to quantify the possible effect of pathological placental structure on oxygen transfer. The model predicts how, for a fixed pressure drop through a capillary, oxygen transfer is maximized by an optimal width of the dilation. The results could explain the prevalence of fetal hypoxia in cases of delayed villous maturation, a pathology characterized by a lack of the vasculo-syncytial membranes often seen in conjunction with localized capillary dilations.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0165369
JournalPLoS One.
Volume11
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 27 Oct 2016