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Pitt receives $2.5 million to simulate and analyze brain, immune system activity
Date:6/24/2008

PITTSBURGHIn an effort to promote the application of mathematics to medical treatment, researchers in the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Mathematics will undertake a $2.5 million project to create models of how the brain and immune system function and change over time in response to certain illnesses, infections, and treatment. The models are intended to help doctors better understand and predict the possible short- and long-term responses of their patient's body to treatment.

The National Science Foundation awarded University professor G. Bard Ermentrout, assistant professor Beatrice Riviere, associate professor Jonathan Rubin, assistant professor David Swigon, and professor and interim chair Ivan Yotov a nearly $1.8 million Research Training Group (RTG) award. The RTG includes resources for creating training programs for mathematics students wherein they would work with physicians and biologists to help resolve complicated medical problems through mathematics. Pitt's School of Arts and Scienceswhich houses the mathematics departmentprovided additional funds.

The team will create a variety of computer models based on differential equationswhich predict how systems evolve over timewith the medical guidance of scientists and doctors in Pitt's Departments of Biological Sciences and Neuroscience, the Pitt School of Medicine, and UPMC, said Rubin, a coinvestigator on the project.

The immune system models will plot the various chemical and physical changes that occur as the body battles influenza, inflammation, sepsis and necrosis, and wounds. Ultimately, Rubin explained, the researchers want to pinpoint the origin of such conditions as multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (multiple organ failure), a potentially deadly, uncontrollable inflammation that usually strikes ailing patients with compromised immune systems.

"Infection and inflammation kill people in the intensive care unit," Rubin said. "We hope that by building
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Contact: Morgan Kelly
mekelly@pitt.edu
412-624-4356
University of Pittsburgh
Source:Eurekalert

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