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Title: Mathematical modelling of human sperm motility
Author: Gadelha, Hermes
ISNI:       0000 0004 2738 8105
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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The propulsion mechanics driving the movement of living cells constitutes one of the most incredible engineering works of nature. Active cell motility via the controlled movement of a flagellum beating is among the phylogentically oldest forms of motility, and has been retained in higher level organisms for spermatozoa transport. Despite this ubiquity and importance, the details of how each structural component within the flagellum is orchestrated to generate bending waves, or even the elastic material response from the sperm flagellum, is far from fully understood. By using microbiomechanical modelling and simulation, we develop bio-inspired mathematical models to allow the exploration of sperm motility and the material response of the sperm flagellum. We successfully construct a simple biomathematical model for the human sperm movement by taking into account the sperm cell and its interaction with surrounding fluid, through resistive-force theory, in addition to the geometrically non-linear response of the flagellum elastic structure. When the surrounding fluid is viscous enough, the model predicts that the sperm flagellum may buckle, leading to profound changes in both the waveforms and the swimming cell trajectories. Furthermore, we show that the tapering of the ultrastructural components found in mammalian spermatozoa is essential for sperm migration in high viscosity medium. By reinforcing the flagellum in regions where high tension is expected this flagellar accessory complex is able to prevent tension-driven elastic instabilities that compromise the spermatozoa progressive motility. We equally construct a mathematical model to describe the structural effect of passive link proteins found in flagellar axonemes, providing, for the first time, an explicit mathematical demonstration of the counterbend phenomenon as a generic property of the axoneme, or any cross-linked filament bundle. Furthermore, we analyse the differences between the elastic cross-link shear and pure material shear resistance. We show that pure material shearing effects from Cosserat rod theory or, equivalently, Timoshenko beam theory or are fundamentally different from elastic cross-link induced shear found in filament bundles, such as the axoneme. Finally, we demonstrate that mechanics and modelling can be utilised to evaluate bulk material properties, such as bending stiffness, shear modulus and interfilament sliding resistance from flagellar axonemes its constituent elements, such as microtubules.
Supervisor: Gaffney, Eamonn ; Philip, Maini Sponsor: Capes Foundation ; Ministry of Education of Brazil
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Mathematical biology ; Fluid mechanics (mathematics) ; Mechanics of deformable solids (mathematics) ; Partial differential equations ; Biofluid dynamics ; microbiological ; spermatozoa dynamics