Biological tissues transformation

Title of the research project

Multiscale Mathematical Modelling and Numerics of Growth and Structural Adaptation of Soft Biological Tissues and Tumour Masses. A Synergetic Approach Encompassing Electro-Chemo-Mechanical Phenomena.

Scientific area 

Mathematical Physics, Application of Mathematics in sciences 

Project coordinator

Alfio Grillo


This project aims to describe how biological tissues transform their internal structure due to diseases and traumatic events, and to employ the acquired knowledges to support new protocols of tissue regeneration. To this end, the stimuli triggering tissue evolution must be understood and controlled.

Description of the research project 

Biological tissues consist essentially of cells, intercellular components, collagen, ions, and an interstitial fluid. As a consequence of chemical, electric, and mechanical interactions, a tissue responds to the stimuli of its surrounding environment by changing its shape, varying its mass, and reorganising its internal structure. Such transformations influence the processes that occur among the cells, and trigger the evolution of the macroscopic properties of the tissue itself (for example, the permeability and elasticity) by manifesting themselves in various ways (for example, through the reorientation of the collage fibres, and the variation of the adhesion properties of cellular aggregates). The history of a tissue, thus, is the result of interactions taking place among different levels of observation, each of which is associated with characteristic time and length scales. The purpose of this project is to provide a synergetic approach to the structural transformations of the tissues, thereby resolving the interactions underlying these transformations at the most relevant levels of observation. This research is meant to enrich the scientific community through the study of interdisciplinary problems, and the development of software. The main expected result is to establish protocols capable of activating, through the stimulation of appropriate cells, the structural transformations necessary for the regeneration of diseased or damaged tissues.

Impact on society 

The main reason for undertaking the proposed studies is related to the need of improving the quality of life of people afflicted by degenerative diseases (such as osteoarthritis, tumours and cardiovascular diseases). These studies are also motivated by economic issues, since contributing to contain the progression of some pathologies with high social impact can alleviate the sanitary system by reducing the expenses due to medicaments and therapies. The project intends to attract young scientists and international experts in an interdisciplinary forum promoting exchanges of ideas and expertise.

Research Results

The performed research has allowed to study tumor growth in connection with the presence of nutrients, considering its interaction with the surrounding environment and with a specific attention to the tumor mechanical response. A model of structural organization of fiber-reinforced tissues has also been formulated to understand the role of collagen in engineered tissues, also in presence of specific pathologies.

In particular:

  • creation of new research branches at the Politecnico di Torino
  • participation in over 20 international conferences
  • creation of a new research group

Working group 

At Politecnico di Torino:

Alfio Grillo, Dipartimento di Scienze Matematiche "G.L. Lagrange" (DISMA) - project coordinator, Rajandrea Sethi, Department of Environment, Land and Infrastructure Engineering (DIATI), 

Markus M. Knodel and Melania Carfagna, Dipartimento di Scienze Matematiche "G.L. Lagrange" (DISMA)

International partners

Gabriel Wittum, Goethe Center for Scientific Computing, Universität Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Salvatore Federico, Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering and Centre for Bioengineering Education and Research, The University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.

  • Budget: 128.609
  • Start date: 15/12/2015
  • End date: 14/12/2017