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Concept: Ordinary differential equation


Six volunteers experienced severe inflammatory response during the Phase I clinical trial of a monoclonal antibody that was designed to stimulate a regulatory T cell response. Soon after the trial began, each volunteer experienced a “cytokine storm”, a dramatic increase in cytokine concentrations. The monoclonal antibody, TGN1412, raised serum concentrations of both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines το very hiγh values during the first day, while lymphocyte and monocyte concentrations plummeted. Because the subjects were healthy and had no prior indications of immune deficiency, this event provided an unusual opportunity to study the dynamic interactions of cytokines and other measured parameters. Here, the response histories of nine cytokines have been modeled by a set of linear ordinary differential equations. A general search procedure identifies parameters of the model, whose response fits the data well during the five-day measurement period. The eighteenth-order model reveals plausible cause-and-effect relationships among the cytokines, showing how each cytokine induces or inhibits other cytokines. It suggests that perturbations in IL2, IL8, and IL10 have the most significant inductive effect, while IFN-γ and IL12 have the greatest inhibiting effect on other cytokine concentrations. Although TNF-α is a major pro-inflammatory factor, IFN-γ and three other cytokines have faster initial and median response to TGN1412 infusion. Principal-component analysis of the data reveals three clusters of similar cytokine responses: [TNF-α, IL1, IL10], [IFN-γ, IL2, IL4, IL8, and IL12], and [IL6]. IL1, IL6, IL10, and TNF-α have the highest degree of variability in response to uncertain initial conditions, exogenous effects, and parameter estimates. This study illuminates details of a cytokine storm event, and it demonstrates the value of linear modeling for interpreting complex, coupled biological system dynamics from empirical data.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Antibody, Cytokine, Interleukin 1, Cytokine storm, Ordinary differential equation, TGN1412


We outline our perspective on stochastic chemical kinetics, paying particular attention to numerical simulation algorithms. We first focus on dilute, well-mixed systems, whose description using ordinary differential equations has served as the basis for traditional chemical kinetics for the past 150 years. For such systems, we review the physical and mathematical rationale for a discrete-stochastic approach, and for the approximations that need to be made in order to regain the traditional continuous-deterministic description. We next take note of some of the more promising strategies for dealing stochastically with stiff systems, rare events, and sensitivity analysis. Finally, we review some recent efforts to adapt and extend the discrete-stochastic approach to systems that are not well-mixed. In that currently developing area, we focus mainly on the strategy of subdividing the system into well-mixed subvolumes, and then simulating diffusional transfers of reactant molecules between adjacent subvolumes together with chemical reactions inside the subvolumes.

Concepts: Mathematics, Chemical reaction, Simulation, Differential equation, Computer simulation, Mathematical model, Ordinary differential equation, Stochastic


Neuroprosthetic devices, such as cochlear and retinal implants, work by directly stimulating neurons with extracellular electrodes. This is commonly modeled using the cable equation with an applied extracellular voltage. In this paper a framework for modeling extracellular electrical stimulation is presented. To this end, a cylindrical neurite with confined extracellular space in the subthreshold regime is modeled in three-dimensional space. Through cylindrical harmonic expansion of Laplace’s equation, we derive the spatio-temporal equations governing different modes of stimulation, referred to as longitudinal and transverse modes, under types of boundary conditions. The longitudinal mode is described by the well-known cable equation, however, the transverse modes are described by a novel ordinary differential equation. For the longitudinal mode, we find that different electrotonic length constants apply under the two different boundary conditions. Equations connecting current density to voltage boundary conditions are derived that are used to calculate the trans-impedance of the neurite-plus-thin-extracellular-sheath. A detailed explanation on depolarization mechanisms and the dominant current pathway under different modes of stimulation is provided. The analytic results derived here enable the estimation of a neurite’s membrane potential under extracellular stimulation, hence bypassing the heavy computational cost of using numerical methods.

Concepts: Mathematics, Cell membrane, Maxwell's equations, Action potential, Differential equation, Partial differential equation, Normal mode, Ordinary differential equation


The steady boundary layer flow and heat transfer of a nanofluid past a nonlinearly permeable stretching/shrinking sheet is numerically studied. The governing partial differential equations are reduced into a system of ordinary differential equations using a similarity transformation, which are then solved numerically using a shooting method. The local Nusselt number and the local Sherwood number and some samples of velocity, temperature and nanoparticle concentration profiles are graphically presented and discussed. Effects of the suction parameter, thermophoresis parameter, Brownian motion parameter and the stretching/shrinking parameter on the flow, concentration and heat transfer characteristics are thoroughly investigated. Dual solutions are found to exist in a certain range of the stretching/shrinking parameter for both shrinking and stretching cases. Results indicate that suction widens the range of the stretching/shrinking parameter for which the solution exists.

Concepts: Temperature, Thermodynamics, Derivative, Differential equation, Heat transfer, Partial differential equation, Ordinary differential equation, Sherwood number


Over the past decade, several targeted therapies (e.g. imatinib, dasatinib, nilotinib) have been developed to treat Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). Despite an initial response to therapy, drug resistance remains a problem for some CML patients. Recent studies have shown that resistance mutations that preexist treatment can be detected in a substantial number of patients, and that this may be associated with eventual treatment failure. One proposed method to extend treatment efficacy is to use a combination of multiple targeted therapies. However, the design of such combination therapies (timing, sequence, etc.) remains an open challenge. In this work we mathematically model the dynamics of CML response to combination therapy and analyze the impact of combination treatment schedules on treatment efficacy in patients with preexisting resistance. We then propose an optimization problem to find the best schedule of multiple therapies based on the evolution of CML according to our ordinary differential equation model. This resulting optimization problem is nontrivial due to the presence of ordinary different equation constraints and integer variables. Our model also incorporates drug toxicity constraints by tracking the dynamics of patient neutrophil counts in response to therapy. We determine optimal combination strategies that maximize time until treatment failure on hypothetical patients, using parameters estimated from clinical data in the literature.

Concepts: Medicine, Mathematics, Leukemia, Differential equation, Chronic myelogenous leukemia, Philadelphia chromosome, Optimization, Ordinary differential equation


Despite significant efforts and remarkable progress, the inference of signaling networks from experimental data remains very challenging. The problem is particularly difficult when the objective is to obtain a dynamic model capable of predicting the effect of novel perturbations not considered during model training. The problem is ill-posed due to the nonlinear nature of these systems, the fact that only a fraction of the involved proteins and their post-translational modifications can be measured, and limitations on the technologies used for growing cells in vitro, perturbing them, and measuring their variations. As a consequence, there is a pervasive lack of identifiability. To overcome these issues, we present a methodology called SELDOM (enSEmbLe of Dynamic lOgic-based Models), which builds an ensemble of logic-based dynamic models, trains them to experimental data, and combines their individual simulations into an ensemble prediction. It also includes a model reduction step to prune spurious interactions and mitigate overfitting. SELDOM is a data-driven method, in the sense that it does not require any prior knowledge of the system: the interaction networks that act as scaffolds for the dynamic models are inferred from data using mutual information. We have tested SELDOM on a number of experimental and in silico signal transduction case-studies, including the recent HPN-DREAM breast cancer challenge. We found that its performance is highly competitive compared to state-of-the-art methods for the purpose of recovering network topology. More importantly, the utility of SELDOM goes beyond basic network inference (i.e. uncovering static interaction networks): it builds dynamic (based on ordinary differential equation) models, which can be used for mechanistic interpretations and reliable dynamic predictions in new experimental conditions (i.e. not used in the training). For this task, SELDOM’s ensemble prediction is not only consistently better than predictions from individual models, but also often outperforms the state of the art represented by the methods used in the HPN-DREAM challenge.

Concepts: Scientific method, Mathematics, Prediction, Futurology, In vitro, Differential equation, Logic, Ordinary differential equation


An important challenge in several disciplines is to understand how sudden changes can propagate among coupled systems. Examples include the synchronization of business cycles, population collapse in patchy ecosystems, markets shifting to a new technology platform, collapses in prices and in confidence in financial markets, and protests erupting in multiple countries. A number of mathematical models of these phenomena have multiple equilibria separated by saddle-node bifurcations. We study this behaviour in its normal form as fast-slow ordinary differential equations. In our model, a system consists of multiple subsystems, such as countries in the global economy or patches of an ecosystem. Each subsystem is described by a scalar quantity, such as economic output or population, that undergoes sudden changes via saddle-node bifurcations. The subsystems are coupled via their scalar quantity (e.g. trade couples economic output; diffusion couples populations); that coupling moves the locations of their bifurcations. The model demonstrates two ways in which sudden changes can propagate: they can cascade (one causing the next), or they can hop over subsystems. The latter is absent from classic models of cascades. For an application, we study the Arab Spring protests. After connecting the model to sociological theories that have bistability, we use socioeconomic data to estimate relative proximities to tipping points and Facebook data to estimate couplings among countries. We find that although protests tend to spread locally, they also seem to ‘hop’ over countries, like in the stylized model; this result highlights a new class of temporal motifs in longitudinal network datasets.

Concepts: Mathematics, Sociology, Economics, Systems theory, System, Differential equation, Systems engineering, Ordinary differential equation


In rule-based modeling, molecular interactions are systematically specified in the form of reaction rules that serve as generators of reactions. This provides a way to account for all the potential molecular complexes and interactions among multivalent or multistate molecules. Recently, we introduced rule-based modeling into the Virtual Cell (VCell) modeling framework, permitting graphical specification of rules and merger of networks generated automatically (using the BioNetGen modeling engine) with hand-specified reaction networks. VCell provides a number of ordinary differential equation and stochastic numerical solvers for single-compartment simulations of the kinetic systems derived from these networks, and agent-based network-free simulation of the rules. In this work, compartmental and spatial modeling of rule-based models has been implemented within VCell. To enable rule-based deterministic and stochastic spatial simulations and network-free agent-based compartmental simulations, the BioNetGen and NFSim engines were each modified to support compartments. In the new rule-based formalism, every reactant and product pattern and every reaction rule are assigned locations. We also introduce the rule-based concept of molecular anchors. This assures that any species that has a molecule anchored to a predefined compartment will remain in this compartment. Importantly, in addition to formulation of compartmental models, this now permits VCell users to seamlessly connect reaction networks derived from rules to explicit geometries to automatically generate a system of reaction-diffusion equations. These may then be simulated using either the VCell partial differential equations deterministic solvers or the Smoldyn stochastic simulator.

Concepts: Mathematics, Maxwell's equations, Simulation, Derivative, Differential equation, Partial differential equation, Equation, Ordinary differential equation


Mechanistic mathematical modeling of biochemical reaction networks using ordinary differential equation (ODE) models has improved our understanding of small- and medium-scale biological processes. While the same should in principle hold for large- and genome-scale processes, the computational methods for the analysis of ODE models which describe hundreds or thousands of biochemical species and reactions are missing so far. While individual simulations are feasible, the inference of the model parameters from experimental data is computationally too intensive. In this manuscript, we evaluate adjoint sensitivity analysis for parameter estimation in large scale biochemical reaction networks. We present the approach for time-discrete measurement and compare it to state-of-the-art methods used in systems and computational biology. Our comparison reveals a significantly improved computational efficiency and a superior scalability of adjoint sensitivity analysis. The computational complexity is effectively independent of the number of parameters, enabling the analysis of large- and genome-scale models. Our study of a comprehensive kinetic model of ErbB signaling shows that parameter estimation using adjoint sensitivity analysis requires a fraction of the computation time of established methods. The proposed method will facilitate mechanistic modeling of genome-scale cellular processes, as required in the age of omics.

Concepts: Mathematics, Maximum likelihood, Model, Differential equation, Logic, Computer science, Computational complexity theory, Ordinary differential equation


The phenomenon of radicalization is investigated within a mixed population composed of core and sensitive subpopulations. The latest includes first to third generation immigrants. Respective ways of life may be partially incompatible. In case of a conflict core agents behave as inflexible about the issue. In contrast, sensitive agents can decide either to live peacefully adjusting their way of life to the core one, or to oppose it with eventually joining violent activities. The interplay dynamics between peaceful and opponent sensitive agents is driven by pairwise interactions. These interactions occur both within the sensitive population and by mixing with core agents. The update process is monitored using a Lotka-Volterra-like Ordinary Differential Equation. Given an initial tiny minority of opponents that coexist with both inflexible and peaceful agents, we investigate implications on the emergence of radicalization. Opponents try to turn peaceful agents to opponents driving radicalization. However, inflexible core agents may step in to bring back opponents to a peaceful choice thus weakening the phenomenon. The required minimum individual core involvement to actually curb radicalization is calculated. It is found to be a function of both the majority or minority status of the sensitive subpopulation with respect to the core subpopulation and the degree of activeness of opponents. The results highlight the instrumental role core agents can have to hinder radicalization within the sensitive subpopulation. Some hints are outlined to favor novel public policies towards social integration.

Concepts: Population, Maxwell's equations, Sociology, English-language films, Immigration, Differential equation, Minority, Ordinary differential equation