Navigation Links
Pitt receives $2.5 million to simulate and analyze brain, immune system activity

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 this model and calculating how to control the system, we can help doctors design a clinical strategy for intervention based on a condition's progression."

The neurological models will outline the typical course of activity in various brain regions, communication among brain cells, and time-dependent changes in the synapsesthe small gaps between cells through which they communicate. The team will look for how electrical signals and brain waves transmit between brain cells and, in turn, the manner in which those impulses alter the cells.

One clinical application, Rubin said, would be for improving therapies for neurological conditions, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS), which manipulates brain activity via a surgically implanted device that emits electric pulses. Despite DBS' effectiveness in treating such conditions as chronic pain and Parkinson's disease, how it works remains unknown, Rubin said. Once the pathways of brain activity are exposed, he continued, doctors could observe how DBS functions and better control the electrical currents to avoid the known psychological side effects.

The complicated models simulate the extensive, constant interaction of various cells and organs operating on multiple time scales, from the immeasurably swift to a full day. The complexity of these models will require the development of new simulation and mathematical techniques, but the work could apply to several other biological systems.

"We're exploring mathematical and computational territory that has not been understood yet," Rubin said. "For instance, the brain contains millions of neurons that in turn contain very small molecules [neurotransmitters]. This network functions on a time scale measured in submilliseconds, a scale so small that no one can really grasp how short it is. At the same time, the brain manages and abides by the circadian rhythm, the body's 24-hour cycle.

"If we make a breakthrough on how to map these time scales, it would apply to multiple systems," Rubin added.


Contact: Morgan Kelly
University of Pittsburgh

Related biology news :

1. NJIT biomedical engineer receives NSF Career Development Award
2. Monash researcher receives prestigious Commonwealth Health Ministers award
3. Spradling receives Gruber Foundation Genetics Prize for new genetic techniques
4. UNH receives $380,000 grant to study organic dairy as closed ecosystem
5. Ape language pioneer Savage-Rumbaugh receives honorary Ph.D. from alma mater
6. Jefferson receives $11.6M NIH grant to study novel mechanisms of heart failure
7. BIO-key(R) Receives $335,000 Contract Award From Baltimore Police
8. UCSB receives $3.2 million stem cell grant from state
9. Smithsonian scientist receives 2008 Medal for Excellence in tropical botany
10. Atmel Receives Frost & Sullivans Technology Innovation Award for FingerChip(R) Biometric Sensor
11. McMaster University engineering professor receives Humboldt Research Award
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/11/2015)... 2015   MedNet Solutions , an innovative SaaS-based eClinical ... is pleased to announce that it will be a Sponsor ... event, to be held November 17-19 in Hamburg ... demonstrations of iMedNet , MedNet,s easy-to-use, proven ... has been able to deliver time and cost savings ...
(Date:11/10/2015)... Nov. 10, 2015 About ... that helps to identify and verify the identity ... considered as the secure and accurate method of ... a particular individual because each individual,s signature is ... especially when dynamic signature of an individual is ...
(Date:11/9/2015)... Calif. , Nov. 9, 2015  Synaptics Inc. ... interface solutions, today announced broader entry into the automotive ... solutions that match the pace of consumer electronics human ... biometric sensors are ideal for the automotive industry and ... Europe , ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... 2 nouvelles études permettent d , ... les souches bactériennes retrouvées dans la plaque dentaire ... . Ces recherches  ouvrent une nouvelle voie ... de l,un des problèmes de santé les plus ... --> 2 nouvelles études permettent d , ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ANGELES and HOLLISTON, Mass. ... Technology, Inc. (Nasdaq: HART ), a biotechnology company ... that CEO Jim McGorry will present at ... December 1, 2015 at 2:30 p.m. PT. The presentation ... below) for 30 days. Management will also be available ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , Nov. 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. ... its business and prospects remain fundamentally strong and ... (zoptarelin doxorubicin) recently received DSMB recommendation to continue ... following review of the final interim efficacy and ... Primary Endpoint in men with heavily pretreated castration- ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... -- Orexigen® Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: OREX ) today ... discussion at the Piper Jaffray 27th Annual Healthcare Conference ... is scheduled for Wednesday, December 2, at 8:00 a.m. ... will be available for 14 days after the event.  ... Corporate Communications and Business Development , BrewLife(858) 875-8629 ...
Breaking Biology Technology: