Engineering Innovation in Maternal and Fetal Health: The Biomechanics of High-Risk Pregnancies

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Department of Biomedical Engineering

Location: Gateway South 122

Speaker: Kristin M. Meyers, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Columbia University


The reproductive soft tissues that support the fetus undergo some of the most dramatic and unique growth and remodeling events in the human body. The uterus and fetal membrane must grow and stretch during pregnancy to accommodate the fetus.

Simultaneously, the cervix must remodel and be a mechanical barrier to keep the fetus within the uterus. All three tissues must withstand mechanical forces to protect, support, and maintain an optimal growth environment for the developing baby. Then, in a reversal of roles, ideally nearing term, the uterus begins to contract and the cervix deforms to allow for a safe delivery. The magnitude of biomechanical stress and stretch of these soft tissues supporting the fetus is thought to control physiologic processes that regulate tissue growth, remodeling, contractility, and rupture, and it is generally hypothesized that these mechanical signals are clinical cues for normal labor and preterm birth, a major long-lasting public health problem with heavy emotional and financial consequences.

In this talk I will reveal what we know about the soft tissue mechanics of pregnancy. I will present computational models of pregnancy based on ultrasonic anatomical measurements and cervical stiffness measurements from a novel aspirator clinical tool. I will examine the mechanical environment of pregnancy by comparing biomechanical models of patients clinically considered at low- and high-risk of preterm birth. The high-risk cohort is a subset of patients who participated in the TOPS clinical trial at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, an NIH-funded clinical trial to examine the efficacy of the pessary in reducing preterm birth in singleton pregnancies.

Through this experimental and modeling effort I aim to hypothesize which factor or combination of factors may be responsible for clinically-observed mechanical dysfunction in pregnancy.


Kristin MyersLinkedIn

Kristin is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University in the City of New York. Her current obstetrics research is done in collaboration with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

She received her Mechanical Engineering doctorate and masters degree from MIT and her bachelors degree from the University of Michigan.

In 2017 Kristin was given the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Y.C. Fung Young Investigators award for her contributions to the field of biomechanics, and in 2019 Kristin was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the White House for her work in understanding tissue growth and remodeling in pregnancy.