Variation in tiny tubes
The heart is the first organ in the body to function during embryonic development and its function is key
to normal development of most other organs in the body. Hearts start out as very small tubes that drive
fluid by sending waves of compression down its length before growing in to the large, multi-chambered
organ of an adult. Understanding how these tiny tubes drive fluid flow is important to understanding many
aspects of embryonic development, as well as how large, multi-chambered hearts could have evolved.
Although tiny, these tubular hearts have many features that control fluid-flow performance, which makes
assessing which aspects are critical to development and evolution tricky. Dr. Lindsay Waldrop studies the
performance of pumping by tiny tubes using two complementary approaches: an experimental animal
model (sea squirts) that have hearts similar to those in developing embryos, and a computational model
that solves fluid flow equations during simulated pumping. Through a collaboration with Yanyan He
(assistant professor, NMT Mathematics), these models can be used to test how big of an impact small
changes in these tubes have on fluid-flow performance, which is key to understanding how small changes
can lead to large changes during development and evolution.