Modelling calcium signalling in In-Vitro Fertilization
Calcium (Ca2+) is a life and death signal, the most important second messenger in the body, carrying important information across all our cells. It also plays an essential role in embryo development, beginning at fertilization when fast Ca+ waves sweep through the egg after sperm fusion and later in embryogenesis, during tissue contractions and movements. These fast waves, or Ca2+ transients, are crucial for the embryo development and the number and pattern of Ca2+ increases is a predictor of the viability of the embryo. Critically, recent experimental evidence has accumulated showing that each Ca2+ increase in the egg causes mechanical effects which can be detected as slight ‘spasms’ in the egg cytoplasm. These cytoplasmic spasms are of particular interestbecause they could be used to predict which embryo is most likely to go on to give a viable pregnancy. However, surprisingly, very few mathematical modelling efforts have been made in this area. In this project we will analyse experimental data and develop sophisticated mechanochemical mathematical models. The aim is to capture the complex interplay of Ca2+ signalling and the cytoplasmic spasms in eggs and make advances that could inform future experiments and ultimately clinical practice. Mathematical expertise to be developed/enhanced through the project: partial differential equations (includingtravelling waves), ordinary differential equations, bifurcation theory, direct stochastic simulations and analysis of experimental data.