Prize Scholar: Axel Almet

Axel Almet

My thesis concerns mathematical modelling of the morphogenesis of the crypts of Liehberkühn. These glands are responsible for maintaining a tissue barrier that protects the intestines during digestion. In the case of severe tissue damage, crypts can replicate through fission, generating new tissue rapidly. This crypt fission process is important because of its ubiquity; excessive crypt fission drives the expansion of intestinal tumours, while its inhibition allows further progression of inflammatory diseases.

Despite its clinical significance, the biomechanical factors driving crypt morphogenesis are poorly understood, as it is difficult to observe in conventional wet lab settings. For my DPhil, I am building a continuum model of the crypt that accounts for its specialised proliferative hierarchy and the complex mechanical interactions present. With this framework, we can then systematically explore different aspects of crypt morphogenesis, and perform in silico experiments to understand how the crypt’s structure can be perturbed. In doing so, we will generate novel hypotheses that can be validated experimentally, leading to a deeper mechanistic understanding of the gut during health and disease.

The Merton graduate cohort is diverse and friendly, and I am very grateful for the College’s excellent accommodation and range of social events.