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Computer simulation captures immune response to flu
Date:5/18/2009

Researchers have successfully tested first the first time a computer simulation of major portions of the body's immune reaction to influenza type A, with implications for treatment design and preparation ahead of future pandemics, according to work accepted for publication, and posted online, by the Journal of Virology. The new "global" flu model is built out of preexisting, smaller-scale models that capture in mathematical equations millions of simulated interactions between virtual immune cells and viruses.

Mathematical models and computer simulations have been used to understand viral infections and immune response to those infections, including influenza type A viruses, which can cause severe human disease. Type A flu viruses are classified by differing versions of key proteins, hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N), on their outer surfaces that attract attention by the human immune system, but that are always changing. Thus, some forms of both seasonal flu and swine flu are designated H1N1 because of their related, but differing surface proteins. The "bird flu" virus that emerged in 2004 is designated as H5N1. The newest, much-publicized strain of H1N1 swine flu is believed to have caused deaths and hospitalizations because victims' immune systems did not recognize the latest variations in these surface proteins. Each year, seasonal flu causes approximately 36,000 deaths in this country for the same reason.

A team of immunologists, mathematical modelers, statisticians and software developers created the new model over three years within the Center for Biodefense Immune Modeling at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The project was led by Hulin Wu, Ph.D., principal investigator of the project, director of the Center for Biodefense Immune Modeling (CBIM) and division chief of the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, and by Martin S. Zand, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of the CBIM. The work was funded by t
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Contact: Greg Williams
Greg_Williams@urmc.rochester.edu
585-273-1757
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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