Computer simulation analysis of normal and abnormal development of the mammalian diaphragm

Fisher, Jason C.; Bodenstein, Lawrence

Background: Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) is a birth defect with significant morbidity and mortality. Knowledge of diaphragm morphogenesis and the aberrations leading to CDH is limited. Although classical embryologists described the diaphragm as arising from the septum transversum, pleuroperitoneal folds (PPF), esophageal mesentery and body wall, animal studies suggest that the PPF is the major, if not sole, contributor to the muscular diaphragm. Recently, a posterior defect in the PPF has been identified when the teratogen nitrofen is used to induce CDH in fetal rodents. We describe use of a cell-based computer modeling system (Nudge++™) to study diaphragm morphogenesis. Methods and results: Key diaphragmatic structures were digitized from transverse serial sections of paraffin-embedded mouse embryos at embryonic days 11.5 and 13. Structure boundaries and simulated cells were combined in the Nudge++™ software. Model cells were assigned putative behavioral programs, and these programs were progressively modified to produce a diaphragm consistent with the observed anatomy in rodents. Homology between our model and recent anatomical observations occurred under the following simulation conditions: (1) cell mitoses are restricted to the edge of growing tissue; (2) cells near the chest wall remain mitotically active; (3) mitotically active non-edge cells migrate toward the chest wall; and (4) movement direction depends on clonal differentiation between anterior and posterior PPF cells. Conclusion: With the PPF as the sole source of mitotic cells, an early defect in the PPF evolves into a posteromedial diaphragm defect, similar to that of the rodent nitrofen CDH model. A posterolateral defect, as occurs in human CDH, would be more readily recreated by invoking other cellular contributions. Our results suggest that recent reports of PPF-dominated diaphragm morphogenesis in the rodent may not be strictly applicable to man. The ability to recreate a CDH defect using a combination of experimental data and testable hypotheses gives impetus to simulation modeling as an adjunct to experimental analysis of diaphragm morphogenesis.


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Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling

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BioMed Central
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September 9, 2014