Computational modeling to reveal the molecular mechanisms of immunopathology in flu and COVID-19

Mar 16, 2022, 4:00 pm5:00 pm
Engineering QUAD, A224



Event Description

Computational modeling and controls engineering-based analytics offer the opportunity to drive drug development and treatment optimization for severe respiratory infection. Respiratory infection is a top 10 cause of death in the US in a “normal” year, and COVID-19 has propelled respiratory infection to the 3rd leading cause of death in the US. In the past decade, mounting evidence has suggested that deadly respiratory virus infections, such infections with H5N1 virus, the 1918 Spanish Flu, the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus and SARS-Cov-2, are associated with distinct immune system dynamics. Complementing this, immunomodulation studies have demonstrated that modifying the immune system can improve tissue pathology and disease outcome. Since June of 2020, immunomodulatory treatment via select corticosteroids have become the primary approach to treating severe COVID-19 infection. However, the immune response is a highly complicated, self-regulating system. Systems engineering approaches are well suited to modeling immune complexity and can provide in silico tools for drug target candidate prioritization and immunomodulatory treatment optimization. Here, I will discuss our work on computational modeling of immunodynamics during influenza infection and COVID-19. Ordinary differential equations (ODE) and agent-based models (ABMs) will be introduced, and we will discuss how these models have been employed to show that:
- For interferon production, paracrine signaling may be more significant than interferon induction mediated directly by the virus for causing aggressive immune responses.
- Some properties of immune signaling systems, such as cellular heterogeneity and stochastic responses, allow the immune system to minimize the number of responsive cells while still maintaining a robust immune response.
- And H1N1 and H5N1 viruses seem to differently induce interferon production.
Time permitting, we will discuss network-based modeling approaches, including using global network controllability, for predicting host proteins (i.e. factors) that are essential for influenza virus replication. Using an siRNA screen to validate network predictions, we demonstrate that data-driven subnetwork construction is a successful approach for predicting novel drug target candidates. This approach has recently been applied to COVID-19 data, suggesting new possible molecules for therapeutic consideration.