Scientists at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech have constructed a mathematical and computational model of inflammatory bowel disease that allows researchers to simulate the cellular and molecular changes underlying chronic inflammation in humans. The model allows scientists to explore different interactions of cells in the immune system, check how these cells are linked to inflammation in the colon, and identify intervention points to perhaps stop the disease in its tracks. The work appears in the Journal of Theoretical Biology.
More than 1 million people are affected by inflammatory bowel disease in North America alone and direct healthcare expenses for inflammatory bowel disease in the United States are estimated at more than $15 billion annually. What the scientists have been able to do is construct a set of mathematical equations that describe the movement of different cells in the immune system and how these cells interact with different bacteria that can trigger disease in the colon.
Said Josep Bassaganya-Riera, associate professor at VBI, "In collaboration with the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory at VBI, researchers in the Nutritional Immunology and Molecular Medicine group have developed a model of inflammation that allows us to investigate in silico the immunological changes that occur when inflammatory bowel disease takes hold of otherwise healthy gastrointestinal tissue."
Inflammatory bowel disease starts when the gut initiates an abnormal immune response to some of the one hundred trillion or so bacteria that come into contact with the colon of the human body. In some cases, this response can lead to inflammatory lesions and ulcerations in the cells lining the colon through which bacteria can invade the tissue. This invasion can lead to recurring inflammation, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and malnutrition, the tell-tale symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and infec
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