Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mathematical models of adaptive immunity

11.12.2008
More than five million people die every year from infectious diseases, despite the availability of numerous antibiotics and vaccines. The discovery of penicillin to treat bacterial infections, along with the development of vaccines for previously incurable virus diseases such as polio and smallpox, achieved great reductions in mortality during the mid-20th century.

Recently, spectacular advances in medical imaging combined with mathematical tools for modelling the human immune system have provided a base for a new push against infectious disease. The challenges and opportunities presented by these new experimental and theoretical technologies were discussed at a recent workshop organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF), which set out an agenda for quantitative immunology.

"A better understanding of how the immune system responds to infection and of the factors that determine whether an infection results in protective immunity or disease could lead to medical advances resulting in a great reduction in human suffering", said Paul Garside, director of the Centre for Biophotonics at the University of Strathclyde, and Carmen Molina-Paris and Grant Lythe, applied mathematician at the University of Leeds, co-convenors of the ESF workshop.

The fact that a conference on immunology should be co-convened by mathematicians typifies the change in the field from a qualitative science into a quantitative one using comprehensive data sets derived from imaging. This should help answer the question of why a given infection is controlled by the immune system in some people, leading to prolonged adaptive immunity, while in others causes serious disease. The answer depends on numerous factors relating to interaction between metabolism, immune system pathways, and even external factors such as diet and micro-organisms in the gut. Unravelling these factors requires mathematical modelling based on data obtained from images of the processes as they actually take place in the body, combined with chemical analysis of samples such as urine or blood.

One technology in particular, two-photon microscopy, is providing valuable data on immune processes, such as movement and interaction between cells, in real time, as they happen. Two-photon microscopy evolved from conventional light microscopy and exploits the fluorescence effect, causing the object of interest to emit light that can then be observed in high resolution. The ESF workshop focused on how modelling and imaging could help resolve the complex immunological and metabolic interactions between three key groups of cells involved in defence against disease, T cells, B cells, and dendritic cells. T cells are a type of white blood cell involved in the adaptive memory against previous infections, in destroying infected viral or tumour cells, and in mediating the immune response to avoid an attack on the host organism. B cells are another type of white blood cell, producing antibodies that identify and mark invading pathogens such as bacteria, also playing a key role in adaptive memory. Dendritic cells aid the other immune cells by processing invading pathogens at an early stage and presenting their antigens (unique surface components, including proteins and carbohydrates, identifying a pathogen) so that they are easily accessible to those other immune cells.

"Modelling the interactions of T cells, B cells and APCs (Antigen presenting cells) such as dendritic cells in the lymph node is one of the great challenges we face", said Garside, Lythe and Molina-Paris. "In particular, it is essential to understand the timescales of these interactions."

There are also broader questions identified at the ESF workshop, such as how the immune system maintains such great diversity in its repertoire of mature antibodies, providing protection against such a wide range of pathogens, while at the same time it is able to discriminate between self and non-self, and achieve a proportionate response to infection, so that collateral damage against the host is minimised. The importance of this fine regulation is emphasised when it goes wrong, for example in septic shock when the immune system over reacts to a pathogen, or in chronic auto immune diseases such as MS or rheumatoid arthritis, when these immune cells attack the body's own tissue. Although the ESF workshop concentrated on infectious diseases, the research it will stimulate will also lead to better understanding and improved therapies for these conditions where the immune system malfunctions.

The ESF workshop, Challenges for experimental and theoretical immunology, was held in Leeds, UK in September 2008.

For more information please go to www.esf.org/activities/exploratory-workshops/medical-sciences-emrc/workshops-detail.html?ew=6475

Thomas Lau | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esf.org

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Team discovers how bacteria exploit a chink in the body's armor
20.01.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

nachricht Rabies viruses reveal wiring in transparent brains
19.01.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>