Computational Modelling of the Human Digestive Tract

Oral Presentation | Simon Harrison

Date & Time: Friday June 26 2020, 12:10


Simon M. Harrison (1), Matthew D. Sinnott (1), Paul W. Cleary (1), Nicholas Archer (2), Jess Heffernan (2)

(1) CSIRO Data61, Melbourne VIC, (2) CSIRO Ag & Food, North Ryde NSW

Computational simulation of ingestion, mastication and digestion processes can be used to: (1) evaluate our understanding of digestion and identify gaps in knowledge and measured data, (2) perform virtual experiments in which novel or existing food designs can be evaluated, and (3) better understand medical issues such as dysphagia and their possible mitigations. We present our detailed models of chewing, swallowing, mixing and flow in the stomach and intestine and carbohydrate fermentation in the colon by microbiota. Two components of the modelling framework are presented in detail. First, the mastication and digestion of egg white gels is presented. These gels can be made with very different textural properties simply by adjustment of pH in their gelation process. Other work packages in the testbed have characterized mechanical fracturing and elasticity, particle breakdown during chewing, and aspects of in vitro gastric digestion. These data are used to calibrate aspects of the model and evaluate simulation outputs. Second, the planned expansion of the model colon to include intestinal wall movements from imaging of individual patients will be presented. This will improve the realism of the model and allow patient-specific evaluations of changes to food designs or medical interventions. These examples will be used to detail our vision for expanding the use of the framework in future strategic and commercial applications for improved food design and health.

Presentation Video

Presenting Author

Dr. Simon Harrison

Senior Research Scientist
CSIRO – Data61

Simon is a Senior Research Scientist in CSIRO Data61’s Natural Systems Modelling group who combines Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) and Discrete Element Model (DEM) simulations of fluid and solid dynamics with musculoskeletal models of the body to study food digestion, performance, injury, and health.

The team of Paul Cleary, Matthew Sinnott, and Simon have built novel 3D physics-based models of food ingestion and mastication, gastric mixing and emptying, and intestinal transport, and have applied these models to research questions in the areas of food reformulation and GI tract performance. Simon holds a B Eng (Mech), a B Sci (Chem), and a PhD (Biomechanical Engineering) from the University of Western Australia.