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This article is part of the supplement: Proceedings of the First and Second European Workshops on Preterm Labour: Special Non-Invasive Advances in Fetal and Neonatal Evaluation (SAFE) Network of Excellence

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Towards understanding the myometrial physiome: approaches for the construction of a virtual physiological uterus

Michael John Taggart1*, Andrew Blanks2, Sanjay Kharche3, Arun Holden4, Bin Wang5 and Henggui Zhang3

Author Affiliations

1 Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre, University of Manchester, St Mary's Hospital, Hathersage Road, Manchester, M13 0JH, UK

2 Clinical Sciences Research Centre, Warwick Medical School, Coventry, UK

3 School of Physics, University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK

4 Institute of Membrane & Systems Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

5 School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2007, 7(Suppl 1):S3  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-7-S1-S3

Published: 1 June 2007


Premature labour (PTL) is the single most significant factor contributing to neonatal morbidity in Europe with enormous attendant healthcare and social costs. Consequently, it remains a major challenge to alleviate the cause and impact of this condition. Our ability to improve the diagnosis and treatment of women most at risk of PTL is, however, actually hampered by an incomplete understanding of the ways in which the functions of the uterine myocyte are integrated to effect an appropriate biological response at the multicellular whole organ system. The level of organization required to co-ordinate labouring uterine contractile effort in time and space can be considered immense. There is a multitude of what might be considered mini-systems involved, each with their own regulatory feedback cycles, yet they each, in turn, will influence the behaviour of a related system. These include, but are not exclusive to, gestational-dependent regulation of transcription, translation, post-translational modifications, intracellular signaling dynamics, cell morphology, intercellular communication and tissue level morphology.

We propose that in order to comprehend how these mini-systems integrate to facilitate uterine contraction during labour (preterm or term) we must, in concert with biological experimentation, construct detailed mathematical descriptions of our findings. This serves three purposes: firstly, providing a quantitative description of series of complex observations; secondly, proferring a database platform that informs further testable experimentation; thirdly, advancing towards the establishment of a virtual physiological uterus and in silico clinical diagnosis and treatment of PTL.