Characterizing emergent properties of immunological systems with multi-cellular rule-based computational modeling

Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia, Health System, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.
Trends in Immunology (Impact Factor: 10.4). 01/2009; 29(12):589-99. DOI: 10.1016/
Source: PubMed


The immune system is comprised of numerous components that interact with one another to give rise to phenotypic behaviors that are sometimes unexpected. Agent-based modeling (ABM) and cellular automata (CA) belong to a class of discrete mathematical approaches in which autonomous entities detect local information and act over time according to logical rules. The power of this approach lies in the emergence of behavior that arises from interactions between agents, which would otherwise be impossible to know a priori. Recent work exploring the immune system with ABM and CA has revealed novel insights into immunological processes. Here, we summarize these applications to immunology and, particularly, how ABM can help formulate hypotheses that might drive further experimental investigations of disease mechanisms.

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