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Section: Research Program

Multi-physics modeling and simulation

The research activity in terms of modeling and simulation (i.e., the so-called forward problem) is driven by two application domains related to the cardiovascular and the respiratory systems.

Cardiovascular hemodynamics

We distinguish between cardiac hemodynamics (blood flow inside the four chambers of the heart) and vascular hemodynamics (blood flow in the vessels of the body).

Cardiac hemodynamics. The numerical simulation of cardiac hemodynamics presents many difficulties. We can mention, for instance, the large deformation of the cardiac chambers and the complex fluid-structure interaction (FSI) phenomena between blood, the valves and the myocardium. Blood flow can be described by the incompressible Navier-Stokes equations which have to be coupled with a bio-physical model of the myocardium electro-mechanics and a mechanical model of the valves. The coupling between the fluid and the solid media is enforced by kinematic and dynamic coupling conditions, which guarantee the continuity of velocity and stresses across the interface. In spite of the significant advances achieved since the beginning of this century (see, e.g., [61], [69], [60], [63], [53]), the simulation of all the fluid-structure interaction phenomena involved in the heart hemodynamics remains a complex and challenging problem.

Heart valves are definitely a bottleneck of the problem, particularly due to their fast dynamics and the contact phenomena at high pressure-drops. Computational cost is recognized as one of the key difficulties, related to the efficiency of the FSI coupling method and the robustness of the contact algorithm. Furthermore, the numerical discretization of these coupled systems requires to deal with unfitted fluid and solid meshes, which are known to complicate the accuracy and/or the robustness of the numerical approximations (see Section 3.3.2 below).

The ultimate goal of the proposed research activity is the simulation of the complete fluid-structure-contact interaction phenomena involved within the heart. Most of this work will be carried out in close collaboration with the M3DISIM project-team, which has a wide expertise on the modeling, simulation and estimation of myocardium electro-mechanics. We will also consider simplified approaches for cardiac hemodynamics (see, e.g., [34], [48], [51]). The objective is to develop mathematically sound models of reduced valve dynamics with the purpose of enhancing the description of the pressure dynamics right after the opening/closing of the valve (traditional models yield spurious pressure oscillations).

Vascular hemodynamics. The modeling and simulation of vascular hemodynamics in large vessels has been one of the core research topics of some members of COMMEDIA, notably as regards the fluid-structure interaction phenomena. Here we propose to investigate the modeling of pathological scenarios, such as the hemorrhage phenomena in smaller vessels. Modeling of hemorrhage is motivated by the medical constatation that, after a primary vessel wall rupture, secondary vessel wall ruptures are observed. Biologists postulate that the mechanical explanation of this phenomena might be in the change of applied stress due to blood bleeding. We propose to model and simulate the underlying coupled system, blood vessel flow through the external tissue, to estimate the effect of the subsequent stress variation.

Respiratory flows

The motivation of the proposed research activities is to develop a hierarchy of easily parametrizable models allowing to describe and efficiently simulate the physical, mechanical and biological phenomena related to human respiration, namely, ventilation, particle deposition, gas diffusion and coupling with the circulatory system.

Ventilation. The current modeling approaches (either 3D–0D coupled models where the 3D Navier-Stokes equations are solved in truncated geometries of the bronchial tree with appropriate lumped boundary conditions, or 0D–3D coupled models where the lung parenchyma is described by a 3D elastic media irrigated by a simplified bronchial tree) provide satisfactory results in the case of mechanical ventilation or normal breathing. Realistic volume-flow phase portraits can also be simulated in the case of forced expiration (see [36], [45], [66]), but the magnitude of the corresponding pressure is not physiological. The current models must be enriched since they do not yet correctly describe all the physiological phenomena at play. We hence propose to extend the 0D–3D (bronchial tree–parenchyma) model developed in the team, by considering a non-linear, viscoelastic and possibly poro-elastic description of the parenchyma with appropriate boundary conditions that describe ribs and adjacent organs and taking into account an appropriate resistive model.

So far, the motion of the trachea and proximal bronchi has been neglected in the ventilation models (see, e.g., [67]). These features can be critical for the modeling of pathologic phenomena such as sleep apnea and occlusion of the airways. This would be a long-term goal where fluid-structure interaction and the possible contact phenomena will be taken into account, as in the simulation of cardiac hemodynamics (see Section 3.1.1).

Aerosol and gas diffusion. The dynamics of aerosols in the lung have been widely studied from the mathematical modeling standpoint. They can be described by models at different scales: the microscopic one for which each particle is described individually, the mesoscopic (or kinetic) one for which a density of probability is considered, or the macroscopic one where reaction-diffusion equations describing the behavior of the constituant concentration are considered. The objective of COMMEDIA will mainly be to develop the kinetic approach that allows a precise description of the deposition area at controlled computational costs. Part of this study could be done in collaboration with colleagues from the Research Center for Respiratory Diseases at Inserm Tours (UMR1100).

The macroscopic description is also appropriate for the diffusion of gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) in the bronchial tree (see [62]). Regarding the influence of the carrier gas, if the patient inhales a different mixture of air such as a Helium-Oxygen mixture, the diffusion mechanisms could be modified. In this context, the goal is to evaluate if the cross-diffusion (and thus the carrier gas) modifies the quantities of oxygen diffused. Part of this work will be carried out in collaboration with members of the LJLL and of the MAP5.

As a long term goal, we propose to investigate the coupling of these models to models of diffusion in the blood or to perfusion models of the parenchyma, and thus, have access thanks to numerical simulations to new indices of ventilation efficiency (such as dissolved oxygen levels), depending on the pathology considered or the resting or exercise condition of the patient.