Parameter estimation for a point-source diffusion-decay morphogen model

Mark B. Flegg, Mario A. Muñoz, Kate Smith-Miles, Wai Shan Yuen, Jennifer A. Flegg, John Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


In this paper we present a novel method for finding unknown parameters for an unknown morphogen. We postulate the existence of an unknown morphogen in a given three-dimensional domain due to the spontaneous arrangement of a downstream species on the domain boundary for which data is known. Assuming a modified Helmholtz model for the morphogen and that it is produced from a single source in the domain, our method accurately estimates the source location and other model parameters. Notably, our method does not require the forward solution of the model to be computed which can often be a challenge for three-dimensional PDE model parameter fitting. Instead, an extension is made from the problem domain to an infinite domain and the analytic nature of the fundamental solution is exploited. We explore in this manuscript strategies for best conditioning the problem and rigorously explore the accuracy of the method on two test problems. Our tests focus on the effect of source location on accuracy but also the robustness of the algorithm to experimental noise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2227–2255
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Mathematical Biology
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Inverse problem
  • Modified Helmholtz equation
  • Morphogen
  • Parameter fitting

Cite this