"The findings open up the possibility of studying the development of T cells in children with DiGeorge syndrome in a rigorous and quantifiable way, because we can determine which factors are most important," said Markert, a Duke Associate Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Immunology.
For example, one of the transplants appeared not to be functioning, based on a biopsy. Using the computations devised for this research, however, the team was able to track the rise in certain types of T cells the transplant took longer to develop T cells than most other cases. In the end, the child's immune system matured, T cells developed, and the child avoided undergoing a second transplantation.
"What is novel is our ability to take the results from assays and quantify them to get a numerical measure of diversity, to get a picture of what really happens when T cells mature," Ciupe said. "Secondly, we were able to develop a mathematical model to feed the data into."
"It will require a significant mathematical effort to see the full promise of human systems biology come to fruition," Kepler said. "So much scientific work is done in model organisms, but we can't manipulate humans in those ways. This paper shows that with more sophisticated mathematical tools, you can get the information you need to learn about human biology without enormous amounts of manipulation of people."
Ciupe said that using applying mathematics to biological systems and biological engineering will continue to develop new applications for humans. Mathematics might help to deliberately design human vaccines, for instance. "Physics and mathematics have a symbiotic relationship and resulted in the laws of physics," she said. "Combining biology and math is an iterative process, and someday we may have laws of biology in the same way."
|Contact: Mary Jane Gore|
Duke University Medical Center