University of Edinburgh

South Bridge, Edinburgh

As part of the Health Matters series at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, Professor Jonathan Sherrat will show that you certainly can. The answer lies in mathematical modelling. To predict the way any process will behave you must create a mathematical model. From bridge building and weather forecasting to wound healing and tumour growth the same principle applies - identify past patterns and the relationships between them and apply those relationships to the new situations and simulate their future behaviour.

Exciting new possibilities for collaborative research between mathematicians and clinicians have only recently arisen. The twin revolutions in molecular biology and non-linear mathematics that have taken place over the last two decades have supplied the mathematical tools and the biological information to make such models of medical processes. Key examples of this work are found in the context of wound healing and in cancer.

In his talk Professor Sherratt will demonstrate how mathematical models can be used to describe the complex interactions between cells and their environment in the healing wound. The resulting simulations are contributing to the ongoing development of anti-scarring therapies

Rapid deposition of collagen and its
assembly into fibres and bundles is an important factor in reducing scar
formation. It is controlled by the action of growth factors, chemical agents whose diffusion through the cells surrounding the wound can be modelled mathematically. This picture shows a simulation of the density and arrangengement of collagen fibres in a healing wound under two different sets of conditions. Red indicates high density, blue indicates low density. The right half of the image shows collagen deposition under normal skin conditions while the left half shows how the collagen density and alignment can be improved by treatment with an anti-scarring therapy involving the application of growth factors. |

The application of modelling to tumour growth in cancer focuses on specific questions in the complex process of the spread of cancer, such as: how does the tumour acquire its own blood supply and how do the invasive tumour cells breakdown their environment?

Using video clips of recent work to illustrate his lecture, Professor Sherratt will show that these examples indicate the exciting range of research avenues that are opening up through the application of mathematics to molecular biology.

For more information have a look at:

Professor Sherratt's homepage | Links to mathematical biology resources | Edinburgh International Science Festival | International Centre for Mathmatical Sciences |