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Computers make sense of experiments on human disease
Date:11/12/2008

useful analysis. This can be resolved by selecting a simpler model that corresponds only to the experimental data that actually exists. Delegates at the workshop heard how in the case of MS, selection of the model could be tuned to the data, to make best use of the actual experimental results obtained in a particular study, as explained by Jesper Tegner, another co-convenor of the ESF workshop, from the Atherosclerosis Research Unit at the Karolinska Institute Centre for Molecular Medicine (CMM) in Stockholm, Sweden.

"There was one exciting presentation on MS," said Tegner. "The immune system is clearly central for MS. However, the trick in the case of MS is to represent different aspects of the immune system according to the available data.The objective isn't to model the whole immune system. One interesting level of abstraction was the presentation of agent-based modelling of MS where individual cells operated as agents, thus omitting the intracellular machinery." In other words, the detailed interior workings of the cells could be ignored in this case because that would have made the model overcomplicated, with insufficient data at the different levels to produce any useful insights.

In other experiments, data about varying levels of gene expression was obtained, which required very different models with networks of graphs. These highlighted the patterns of gene expression associated with a particular disease, such as MS.

Yet another valuable application of computer-based mathematical disease models lies in studying the phenomenon of addiction to drugs such as nicotine and helping to reconcile conflicting theories, as Compte pointed out. "The neurobiology of nicotine addiction is a hotly debated field. In particular, there are two contending views on how neurons and their connections in subcortical nuclei are affected by nicotine. This computer model allows us to reconcile the apparently contradictory results obtained from in vitro
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Contact: Albert COMPTE
acompte@clinic.ub.es
34-932-275-400-4151
European Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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