MSE Research Project Database

A structurally accurate finite element model of heart cell biomechanics

Project Leader: Vijayaraghavan Rajagopal
Staff: Edmund Crampin
Collaborators: Eric Hanssen (Bio21 Institute) Lea Delbridge (Physiology)
Primary Contact: Vijay Rajagopal (
Keywords: computational biology; heart; mechanobiology
Disciplines: Biomedical Engineering,Mechanical Engineering
Domains: Convergence of engineering and IT with the life sciences
Research Centre: Systems Biology Laboratory

Heart disease is a leading cause of death globally. Heart disease kills 1 Australian every 12 minutes. Changes to morphology, mechanics and organisation within heart cells occur in parallel to biochemical changes during development, long-term exercise, life-style changes and disease but whether these structural and mechanical changes are minor, adaptive or pathological responses to the changing conditions is still largely unknown. Many clinical interventions to heart disease that were initially targeted at biochemical processes alone have been proposed to be effective because of the indirect structural and mechanical changes that occur with the treatment. What role do these changes in the cell play in our hearts? The aim of this project is to develop a detailed, high-resolution finite element model of a single heart cell using our novel high-resolution structural microscopy and single-cell mechanical testing data. 

This project will involve new experimental measurements of the heart cell in health and diseased conditions such as cardiac hypertrophy or diabetic cardiomyopathy. Students will also measure the mechanical properties of these cells using single-cell mechanical testing facilities in our lab. These data will be used to build a world-first high-resolution computational model of the heart cell. The model will be used to study how the cell contractions and how stress and strain are transmitted through the cell and in the vicinity of the nucleus and other key components of the cell. The simulations and experiments will give new insights into the mechanobiology of cardiac disease development at the cellular scale. These insights are important for the development of better pharmaceuticals to treat cardiac diseases. 



Further information:

An automatically segmented dataset of a heart cell showing myofibrils (red), mitochondria (green) and the nucleus (blue)