The endocrine system is composed of several ductless glands; clusters of cells located within certain organs, and isolated endocrine cells in the epithelial lining of the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems. The principal function of the endocrine system is hormone synthesis. Hormones are secreted directly into the surrounding tissue fluid, then taken up by blood and lymph capillaries, and transported around the body. Together with the nervous system, the endocrine system is responsible for controlling, coordinating and integrating the body’s metabolic activities.
At the Bioengineering Institute, the University of Auckland, the Metabolic Modelling Group are currently developing a mathematical model of metabolism in the heart. The aim is then to integrate this metabolic pathway model with a mechanical and electrophysiological cell model, which in turn is embedded in a continuum model of heart tissue or indeed the whole organ. Eventually, it is hoped that this will provide the potential for investigation into, and better understanding of, many of the spatio-temporal effects of heart disease. In addition to heart modelling, there is also an initiative to develop a metabolic model of the pancreatic beta cell in conjunction with Fran Ashcroft at the University of Oxford, using genetic mutation data from individual ion channels to include the regulation and role of ATP and ADP in cell bursting.