Multiscale Modeling of Amphibian Neurulation
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This thesis presents a whole-embryo finite element model of neurulation -- the first of its kind. An advanced, multiscale finite element approach is used to capture the mechanical interactions that occur across cellular, tissue and whole-embryo scales. Cell-based simulations are used to construct a system of constitutive equations for embryonic tissue fabric evolution under different scenarios including bulk deformation, cell annealing, mitosis, and Lamellipodia effect. Experimental data are used to determine the parameters in these equations. Techniques for obtaining images of live embryos, serial sections of fixed embryo fabric parameters, and material properties of embryonic tissues are used. Also a spatial-temporal correlation system is introduced to organize and correlate the data and to construct the finite element model. Biological experiments have been conducted to verify the validity of this constitutive model. A full functional finite element analysis package has been written and is used to conduct computational simulations. A simplified contact algorithm is introduced to address the element permeability issue. Computational simulations of different cases have been conducted to investigate possible causes of neural tube defects. Defect cases including neural plate defect, non-neural epidermis defect, apical constriction defect, and convergent extension defect are compared with the case of normal embryonic development. Corresponding biological experiments are included to support these defect cases. A case with biomechanical feedbacks on non-neural epidermis is also discussed in detail with biological experiments and computational simulations. Its comparison with the normal case indicates that the introduction of biomechanical feedbacks can yield more realistic simulation results.