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Mathematical models of adaptive immunity
Date:12/11/2008

More than five million people die every year from infectious diseases, despite the availability of numerous antibiotics and vaccines. The discovery of penicillin to treat bacterial infections, along with the development of vaccines for previously incurable virus diseases such as polio and smallpox, achieved great reductions in mortality during the mid-20th century.

Recently, spectacular advances in medical imaging combined with mathematical tools for modelling the human immune system have provided a base for a new push against infectious disease. The challenges and opportunities presented by these new experimental and theoretical technologies were discussed at a recent workshop organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF), which set out an agenda for quantitative immunology.

"A better understanding of how the immune system responds to infection and of the factors that determine whether an infection results in protective immunity or disease could lead to medical advances resulting in a great reduction in human suffering", said Paul Garside, director of the Centre for Biophotonics at the University of Strathclyde, and Carmen Molina-Paris and Grant Lythe, applied mathematician at the University of Leeds, co-convenors of the ESF workshop.

The fact that a conference on immunology should be co-convened by mathematicians typifies the change in the field from a qualitative science into a quantitative one using comprehensive data sets derived from imaging. This should help answer the question of why a given infection is controlled by the immune system in some people, leading to prolonged adaptive immunity, while in others causes serious disease. The answer depends on numerous factors relating to interaction between metabolism, immune system pathways, and even external factors such as diet and micro-organisms in the gut. Unravelling these factors requires mathematical modelling based on data obtained from images of the processes as they
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Contact: Paul Garside
paul.garside@strath.ac.uk
44-014-154-84694
European Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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