A multifaceted approach to modeling the immune response in tuberculosis

  • Marino S
  • Linderman J
  • Kirschner D
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Tuberculosis (TB) is a deadly infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). No available vaccine is reliable and, although treatment exists, approximately 2 million people still die each year. The hallmark of TB infection is the granuloma, a self-organizing structure of immune cells forming in the lung and lymph nodes in response to bacterial invasion. Protective immune mechanisms play a role in granuloma formation and maintenance; these act over different time/length scales (e.g., molecular, cellular, and tissue scales). The significance of specific immune factors in determining disease outcome is still poorly understood, despite incredible efforts to establish several animal systems to track infection progression and granuloma formation. Mathematical and computational modeling approaches have recently been applied to address open questions regarding host-pathogen interaction dynamics, including the immune response to Mtb infection and TB granuloma formation. This provides a unique opportunity to identify factors that are crucial to a successful outcome of infection in humans. These modeling tools not only offer an additional avenue for exploring immune dynamics at multiple biological scales but also complement and extend knowledge gained via experimental tools. We review recent modeling efforts in capturing the immune response to Mtb, emphasizing the importance of a multiorgan and multiscale approach that has tuneable resolution. Together with experimentation, systems biology has begun to unravel key factors driving granuloma formation and protective immune response in TB. WIREs Syst Biol Med 2011 3 479-489 DOI: 10.1002/wsbm.131

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  • Simeone Marino

  • Jennifer J. Linderman

  • Denise E. Kirschner

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