IMPLICATIONS and FINDINGS
The purpose for the creation of the Basic Immune Simulator was to explore the behavior of the immune system as a complex system. Complex systems consist of large collections of active elements that may be very simple when considered as individuals but exhibit complex behavior patterns when they act together as a whole. The immune system is frequently cited as an example of a complex system, because it exhibits all of the characteristic properties. The numerous individual elements are the white blood cells. The immune system has no centralized control; all of the immune cells react to what they perceive in their immediate environment. The perceptions include contacts with other cells and chemical signals called cytokines and chemokines (and even hormones and neurotransmitters) that are used for indirect communication between the cells of the immune system and the cells of the rest of the body.
The Basic Immune Simulator contains representations of all of the basic elements of innate and adaptive immunity, albeit in an abstracted form. Despite the simplification of the represented elements, some surprisingly complex behavior has been observed in the output from the simulator. Not only does the observable behavior emulate the normal behavior of the immune system in eliminating a viral infection, but the behavior of the simulator (under certain conditions) resembles pathological behavior that is observed in the immune system of humans. The pathological behavior that has been observed is like that of the hypersensitivity reactions that cause problems such as allergies, asthma and anaphylaxis.
Because there are no limits to the perturbations that may be tested in the computer simulation environment, and because pathological behavior patterns that emulate real pathology spontaneously emerged from the Basic Immune Simulator, these phenomena will continue to be studied using the simulator. In addition, there are cases when prevention of an immune response is desired, such as in organ transplantation. The simulator may be used to test the effects of a multitude of potential manipulations of the immune response to prevent transplant rejection. This sort of approach represents the future direction for biological experimentation where solutions to problems will be engineered in the in-silico laboratory before being tested in living systems.
PublicationsAn Agent-Based Model Demonstrates that the Immune System Behaves Like a Complex System and a
(currently under construction, coming soon)
PresentationsSimulating the Complexity of Immune Responses (Video)
OSU Mathematical Biosciences Institute scientific workshop: Mathematical Modeling of Cell Processes, Sept. 2003 - Aug. 2004 Workshop 5:
Immunology Modules: Cell Signaling and Immune Dynamics. free version of Realtime player
Abstract by Charles G. Orosz and Virginia Folcik
Swarmfest 2006 Power Point Presentation
OSU Heart Lung Research Institute 2006 Power Point Presentation