Discrete and Continuum Modeling of Biological Network Formation

We present an overview of recent analytical and numerical results for the elliptic parabolic system of partial differential equations proposed by Hu and Cai, which models formation of biological transport networks. The model describes the pressure field using a Darcy’s type equation and the dynamics of the conductance network under pressure force effects. Randomness in the material structure is represented by a linear diffusion term and conductance relaxation by an algebraic decay term. We first introduce micro and mesoscopic models and show how they are connected to the macroscopic PDE system. Then, we provide an overview of analytical results for the PDE model, focusing mainly on the existence of weak and mild solutions and analysis of the steady states. The analytical part is complemented by extensive numerical simulations. We propose a discretization based on finite elements and study the qualitative properties of network structures for various parameter values.

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