Public lecture: Virtual placentas to help make pregnancy healthier

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Event Details

28 November 2016 at 6:00 pm – 28 November 2016 at 7:00 pm
Lecture Theatre B218
Open to:


Have you ever wondered if you breathed before you were born? There is no air in the womb so babies have to get all their oxygen from their mother’s blood. The way they do this is by developing a very special organ, the placenta. The placenta serves as lungs (and many other organs) throughout pregnancy so it needs to develop correctly so the baby can be healthy. After birth, the placenta isn’t needed any more so doctors can have a good look at how well it developed compared to how healthy the baby is. These inspections tell us that the size, shape, and blood vessels of the placenta are associated with babies’ health. But we don’t yet have a good way to spot small problems with the placenta early in pregnancy which might develop into big problems by the time the baby is due to be born.

I will show you how maths and computer science can help us understand more about how the placenta works. I’ll talk about how we create ‘virtual organs’ that can explain why the structure of the placenta is so important to the baby being able to get all the oxygen it needs, and how we might use these virtual organs to help doctors spot problems when a pregnant mum goes for her ultrasound scans.

Dr Alys Clark is a Rutherford Discovery Fellow, Senior Research Fellow in the Auckland Bioengineering Institute at the University of Auckland. Dr Clark’s research interests focus on relating structure to function across spatial scales in the lungs, placenta and ovaries. Her expertise lies in developing efficient and reliable methods for modelling physical processes that occur simultaneously in complex geometries.

The event flyer may be downloaded here. Light refreshments will be served from 5 pm.

Event Contact

Simon Clarke
+61 3 9905 4421
School of Mathematical Sciences