• Entropy-driven cell decision-making predicts ‘fluid-to-solid’ transition in multicellular systems

      Barua, Arnab; Syga, Simon; Mascheroni, Pietro; Kavallaris, Nikos; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; Deutsch, Andreas; Hatzikirou, Haralampos; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (Institute of Physics, 2020-12-01)
      Cellular decision making allows cells to assume functionally different phenotypes in response to microenvironmental cues, with or without genetic change. It is an open question, how individual cell decisions influence the dynamics at the tissue level. Here, we study spatio-temporal pattern formation in a population of cells exhibiting phenotypic plasticity, which is a paradigm of cell decision making. We focus on the migration/resting and the migration/proliferation plasticity which underly the epithelial-mesenchymal transition and the go or grow dichotomy. We assume that cells change their phenotype in order to minimize their microenvironmental entropy following the LEUP (Least microEnvironmental Uncertainty Principle) hypothesis. In turn, we study the impact of the LEUP-driven migration/resting and migration/proliferation plasticity on the corresponding multicellular spatio-temporal dynamics with a stochastic cell-based mathematical model for the spatio-temporal dynamics of the cell phenotypes. In the case of the go or rest plasticity, a corresponding mean-field approximation allows to identify a bistable switching mechanism between a diffusive (fluid) and an epithelial (solid) tissue phase which depends on the sensitivity of the phenotypes to the environment. For the go or grow plasticity, we show the possibility of Turing pattern formation for the ‘solid’ tissue phase and its relation with the parameters of the LEUP-driven cell decisions.
    • Estimation of the cancer risk induced by therapies targeting stem cell replication and treatment recommendations.

      Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-08-06)
      Rejuvenation of stem cell activity might increase life expectancy by prolonging functionality of organs. Higher stem cell replication rates also bear the risk of cancer. The extent of this risk is not known. While it is difficult to evaluate this cancer risk in experiments, it can be estimated using a mathematical model for tissue homeostasis by stem cell replication and associated cancer risk. The model recapitulates the observation that treatments targeting stem cell replication can induce a substantial delay of organ failure. The model predicts that the cancer risk is minor under particular conditions. It depends on the assumed implications for cell damage repair during treatment. The benefit of rejuvenation therapy and its impact on cancer risk depend on the biological age at the time of treatment and on the overall cell turnover rate of the organs. Different organs have to be considered separately in the planning of systemic treatments. In recent years, the transfer of blood from young to old individuals was shown to bear the potential of rejuvenation of stem cell activity. In this context, the model predicts that the treatment schedule is critical for success and that schedules successful in animal experiments are not transferable to humans. Guidelines for successful protocols are proposed. The model presented here may be used as a guidance for the development of stem cell rejuvenation treatment protocols and the identification of critical parameters for cancer risk.
    • Evaluation of CD8 T cell killing models with computer simulations of 2-photon imaging experiments.

      Rastogi, Ananya; Robert, Philippe A; Halle, Stephan; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (PLOS, 2020-12-28)
      In vivo imaging of cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) killing activity revealed that infected cells have a higher observed probability of dying after multiple contacts with CTLs. We developed a three-dimensional agent-based model to discriminate different hypotheses about how infected cells get killed based on quantitative 2-photon in vivo observations. We compared a constant CTL killing probability with mechanisms of signal integration in CTL or infected cells. The most likely scenario implied increased susceptibility of infected cells with increasing number of CTL contacts where the total number of contacts was a critical factor. However, when allowing in silico T cells to initiate new interactions with apoptotic target cells (zombie contacts), a contact history independent killing mechanism was also in agreement with experimental datasets. The comparison of observed datasets to simulation results, revealed limitations in interpreting 2-photon data, and provided readouts to distinguish CTL killing models.
    • Exploiting the Synergy between Carboplatin and ABT-737 in the Treatment of Ovarian Carcinomas.

      Jain, Harsh Vardhan; Richardson, Alan; Müller, A; Byrne, Helen M (2014)
      Platinum drug-resistance in ovarian cancers mediated by anti-apoptotic proteins such as Bcl-xL is a major factor contributing to the chemotherapeutic resistance of recurrent disease. Consequently, concurrent inhibition of Bcl-xL in combination with chemotherapy may improve treatment outcomes for patients. Here, we develop a mathematical model to investigate the potential of combination therapy with ABT-737, a small molecule inhibitor of Bcl-xL, and carboplatin, a platinum-based drug, on a simulated tumor xenograft. The model is calibrated against in vivo experimental data, wherein xenografts established in mice were treated with ABT-737 and/or carboplatin on a fixed periodic schedule. The validated model is used to predict the minimum drug load that will achieve a predetermined level of tumor growth inhibition, thereby maximizing the synergy between the two drugs. Our simulations suggest that the infusion-duration of each carboplatin dose is a critical parameter, with an 8-hour infusion of carboplatin given weekly combined with a daily bolus dose of ABT-737 predicted to minimize residual disease. The potential of combination therapy to prevent or delay the onset of carboplatin-resistance is also investigated. When resistance is acquired as a result of aberrant DNA-damage repair in cells treated with carboplatin, drug delivery schedules that induce tumor remission with even low doses of combination therapy can be identified. Intrinsic resistance due to pre-existing cohorts of resistant cells precludes tumor regression, but dosing strategies that extend disease-free survival periods can still be identified. These results highlight the potential of our model to accelerate the development of novel therapeutics such as BH3 mimetics.
    • F-Actin-Driven CD28-CD80 Localization in the Immune Synapse.

      Siokis, Anastasios; Robert, Philippe A; Demetriou, Philippos; Dustin, Michael L; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (Elsevier, 2018-07-31)
      During immunological synapse (IS) formation, T cell receptor (TCR) signaling complexes, integrins, and costimulatory molecules exhibit a particular spatial localization. Here, we develop an agent-based model for the IS formation based on TCR peptide-bound major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) and leukocyte-function-associated antigen 1 (LFA-1) intracellular activation molecule 1 (ICAM-1) dynamics, including CD28 binding to a costimulatory ligand, coupling of molecules to the centripetal actin flow, and size-based segregation (SBS). A radial gradient of LFA-1 in the peripheral supramolecular activation cluster (pSMAC) toward the central supramolecular activation cluster (cSMAC) emerged as a combined consequence of actin binding and diffusion and modified the positioning of other molecules. The simulations predict a mechanism of CD28 movement, according to which CD28-CD80 complexes passively follow TCR-pMHC microclusters. However, the characteristic CD28-CD80 localization in a ring pattern around the cSMAC only emerges with a particular CD28-actin coupling strength that induces a centripetal motion. These results have implications for the understanding of T cell activation and fate decisions.
    • Functional modules of sigma factor regulons guarantee adaptability and evolvability.

      Binder, Sebastian C; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Schulz, Sebastian; Bielecka, Agata; Nicolai, Tanja; Franke, Raimo; Häussler, Susanne; Müller, A; Helmholtz Centre for infection research (HZI), Inhoffenstraße 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016)
      The focus of modern molecular biology turns from assigning functions to individual genes towards understanding the expression and regulation of complex sets of molecules. Here, we provide evidence that alternative sigma factor regulons in the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa largely represent insulated functional modules which provide a critical level of biological organization involved in general adaptation and survival processes. Analysis of the operational state of the sigma factor network revealed that transcription factors functionally couple the sigma factor regulons and significantly modulate the transcription levels in the face of challenging environments. The threshold quality of newly evolved transcription factors was reached faster and more robustly in in silico testing when the structural organization of sigma factor networks was taken into account. These results indicate that the modular structures of alternative sigma factor regulons provide P. aeruginosa with a robust framework to function adequately in its environment and at the same time facilitate evolutionary change. Our data support the view that widespread modularity guarantees robustness of biological networks and is a key driver of evolvability.
    • Germinal Centre Shutdown.

      Arulraj, Theinmozhi; Binder, Sebastian C; Robert, Philippe A; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany.; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Frontiers, 2021-07-07)
      Germinal Centres (GCs) are transient structures in secondary lymphoid organs, where affinity maturation of B cells takes place following an infection. While GCs are responsible for protective antibody responses, dysregulated GC reactions are associated with autoimmune disease and B cell lymphoma. Typically, 'normal' GCs persist for a limited period of time and eventually undergo shutdown. In this review, we focus on an important but unanswered question - what causes the natural termination of the GC reaction? In murine experiments, lack of antigen, absence or constitutive T cell help leads to premature termination of the GC reaction. Consequently, our present understanding is limited to the idea that GCs are terminated due to a decrease in antigen access or changes in the nature of T cell help. However, there is no direct evidence on which biological signals are primarily responsible for natural termination of GCs and a mechanistic understanding is clearly lacking. We discuss the present understanding of the GC shutdown, from factors impacting GC dynamics to changes in cellular interactions/dynamics during the GC lifetime. We also address potential missing links and remaining questions in GC biology, to facilitate further studies to promote a better understanding of GC shutdown in infection and immune dysregulation.
    • Graph-based description of tertiary lymphoid organs at single-cell level.

      Schaadt, Nadine S; Schönmeyer, Ralf; Forestier, Germain; Brieu, Nicolas; Braubach, Peter; Nekolla, Katharina; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; Feuerhake, Friedrich; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (PLOS, 2020-02-01)
      Our aim is to complement observer-dependent approaches of immune cell evaluation in microscopy images with reproducible measures for spatial composition of lymphocytic infiltrates. Analyzing such patterns of inflammation is becoming increasingly important for therapeutic decisions, for example in transplantation medicine or cancer immunology. We developed a graph-based assessment of lymphocyte clustering in full whole slide images. Based on cell coordinates detected in the full image, a Delaunay triangulation and distance criteria are used to build neighborhood graphs. The composition of nodes and edges are used for classification, e.g. using a support vector machine. We describe the variability of these infiltrates on CD3/CD20 duplex staining in renal biopsies of long-term functioning allografts, in breast cancer cases, and in lung tissue of cystic fibrosis patients. The assessment includes automated cell detection, identification of regions of interest, and classification of lymphocytic clusters according to their degree of organization. We propose a neighborhood feature which considers the occurrence of edges with a certain type in the graph to distinguish between phenotypically different immune infiltrates. Our work addresses a medical need and provides a scalable framework that can be easily adjusted to the requirements of different research questions.
    • Hierarchical effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines on the post-influenza susceptibility to pneumococcal coinfection.

      Duvigneau, Stefanie; Sharma-Chawla, Niharika; Boianelli, Alessandro; Stegemann-Koniszewski, Sabine; Nguyen, Van Kinh; Bruder, Dunja; Hernandez-Vargas, Esteban Abelardo; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56, 38106 Braunschweig. Germany. (2016-11-22)
      In the course of influenza A virus (IAV) infections, a secondary bacterial infection frequently leads to serious respiratory conditions provoking high hospitalization and death tolls. Although abundant pro-inflammatory responses have been reported as key contributing factors for these severe dual infections, the relative contributions of cytokines remain largely unclear. In the current study, mathematical modelling based on murine experimental data dissects IFN-γ as a cytokine candidate responsible for impaired bacterial clearance, thereby promoting bacterial growth and systemic dissemination during acute IAV infection. We also found a time-dependent detrimental role of IL-6 in curtailing bacterial outgrowth which was not as distinct as for IFN-γ. Our numerical simulations suggested a detrimental effect of IFN-γ alone and in synergism with IL-6 but no conclusive pathogenic effect of IL-6 and TNF-α alone. This work provides a rationale to understand the potential impact of how to manipulate temporal immune components, facilitating the formulation of hypotheses about potential therapeutic strategies to treat coinfections.
    • High SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in children and adults in the Austrian ski resort of Ischgl.

      Knabl, Ludwig; Mitra, Tanmay; Kimpel, Janine; Rössler, Annika; Volland, André; Walser, Andreas; Ulmer, Hanno; Pipperger, Lisa; Binder, Sebastian C; Riepler, Lydia; et al. (NPG, 2021-06-30)
      Between April 21st and 27th 2020, a cross-sectional epidemiologic study targeting the full population of Ischgl (n = 1867), of which 79% could be included (n = 1473, incl. 214 children), was performed. For each individual, the study involved a SARS-CoV-2 PCR, antibody testing and structured questionnaires. A mathematical model was used to help understand the influence of the determined seroprevalence on virus transmission.
    • High-resolution epidemic simulation using within-host infection and contact data.

      Nguyen, Van Kinh; Mikolajczyk, Rafael T; Hernandez-Vargas, Esteban Abelardo; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (BMC, 2018-07-17)
      BACKGROUND: Recent epidemics have entailed global discussions on revamping epidemic control and prevention approaches. A general consensus is that all sources of data should be embraced to improve epidemic preparedness. As a disease transmission is inherently governed by individual-level responses, pathogen dynamics within infected hosts posit high potentials to inform population-level phenomena. We propose a multiscale approach showing that individual dynamics were able to reproduce population-level observations. METHODS: Using experimental data, we formulated mathematical models of pathogen infection dynamics from which we simulated mechanistically its transmission parameters. The models were then embedded in our implementation of an age-specific contact network that allows to express individual differences relevant to the transmission processes. This approach is illustrated with an example of Ebola virus (EBOV). RESULTS: The results showed that a within-host infection model can reproduce EBOV's transmission parameters obtained from population data. At the same time, population age-structure, contact distribution and patterns can be expressed using network generating algorithm. This framework opens a vast opportunity to investigate individual roles of factors involved in the epidemic processes. Estimating EBOV's reproduction number revealed a heterogeneous pattern among age-groups, prompting cautions on estimates unadjusted for contact pattern. Assessments of mass vaccination strategies showed that vaccination conducted in a time window from five months before to one week after the start of an epidemic appeared to strongly reduce epidemic size. Noticeably, compared to a non-intervention scenario, a low critical vaccination coverage of 33% cannot ensure epidemic extinction but could reduce the number of cases by ten to hundred times as well as lessen the case-fatality rate. CONCLUSIONS: Experimental data on the within-host infection have been able to capture upfront key transmission parameters of a pathogen; the applications of this approach will give us more time to prepare for potential epidemics. The population of interest in epidemic assessments could be modelled with an age-specific contact network without exhaustive amount of data. Further assessments and adaptations for different pathogens and scenarios to explore multilevel aspects in infectious diseases epidemics are underway.
    • IFN-γ Producing Th1 Cells Induce Different Transcriptional Profiles in Microglia and Astrocytes.

      Prajeeth, Chittappen K; Dittrich-Breiholz, Oliver; Talbot, Steven R; Robert, Philippe A; Huehn, Jochen; Stangel, Martin; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany.; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-01-01)
      Autoreactive T cells that infiltrate into the central nervous system (CNS) are believed to have a significant role in mediating the pathology of neuroinflammatory diseases like multiple sclerosis. Their interaction with microglia and astrocytes in the CNS is crucial for the regulation of neuroinflammatory processes. Our previous work demonstrated that effectors secreted by Th1 and Th17 cells have different capacities to influence the phenotype and function of glial cells. We have shown that Th1-derived effectors altered the phenotype and function of both microglia and astrocytes whereas Th17-derived effectors induced direct effects only on astrocytes but not on microglia. Here we investigated if effector molecules associated with IFN-γ producing Th1 cells induced different gene expression profiles in microglia and astrocytes. We performed a microarray analysis of RNA isolated from microglia and astrocytes treated with medium and Th-derived culture supernatants and compared the gene expression data. By using the criteria of 2-fold change and a false discovery rate of 0.01 (corrected
    • Image analysis of immune cell patterns in the human mammary gland during the menstrual cycle refines lymphocytic lobulitis.

      Schaadt, Nadine S; Alfonso, Juan Carlos López; Schönmeyer, Ralf; Grote, Anne; Forestier, Germain; Wemmert, Cédric; Krönke, Nicole; Stoeckelhuber, Mechthild; Kreipe, Hans H; Hatzikirou, Haralampos; et al. (Springer, 2017-07-01)
      Purpose: To improve microscopic evaluation of immune cells relevant in breast cancer oncoimmunology, we aim at distinguishing normal infiltration patterns from lymphocytic lobulitis by advanced image analysis. We consider potential immune cell variations due to the menstrual cycle and oral contraceptives in non-neoplastic mammary gland tissue. METHODS: Lymphocyte and macrophage distributions were analyzed in the anatomical context of the resting mammary gland in immunohistochemically stained digital whole slide images obtained from 53 reduction mammoplasty specimens. Our image analysis workflow included automated regions of interest detection, immune cell recognition, and co-registration of regions of interest. RESULTS: In normal lobular epithelium, seven CD8[Formula: see text] lymphocytes per 100 epithelial cells were present on average and about 70% of this T-lymphocyte population was lined up along the basal cell layer in close proximity to the epithelium. The density of CD8[Formula: see text] T-cell was 1.6 fold higher in the luteal than in the follicular phase in spontaneous menstrual cycles and 1.4 fold increased under the influence of oral contraceptives, and not co-localized with epithelial proliferation. CD4[Formula: see text] T-cells were infrequent. Abundant CD163[Formula: see text] macrophages were widely spread, including the interstitial compartment, with minor variation during the menstrual cycle. CONCLUSIONS: Spatial patterns of different immune cell subtypes determine the range of normal, as opposed to inflammatory conditions of the breast tissue microenvironment. Advanced image analysis enables quantification of hormonal effects, refines lymphocytic lobulitis, and shows potential for comprehensive biopsy evaluation in oncoimmunolog
    • Immunologic Consequences of Sequencing Cancer Radiotherapy and Surgery.

      López Alfonso, Juan Carlos; Poleszczuk, Jan; Walker, Rachel; Kim, Sungjune; Pilon-Thomas, Shari; Conejo-Garcia, Jose J; Soliman, Hatem; Czerniecki, Brian; Harrison, Louis B; Enderling, Heiko; et al. (American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2019-01-01)
      PURPOSE Early-stage cancers are routinely treated with surgery followed by radiotherapy (SR). Radiotherapy before surgery (RS) has been widely ignored for some cancers. We evaluate overall survival (OS) and diseasefree survival (DFS) with SR and RS for different cancer types and simulate the plausibility of RS- and SR-induced antitumor immunity contributing to outcomes. MATERIALS AND METHODS We analyzed a SEER data set of early-stage cancers treated with SR or RS. OS and DFS were calculated for cancers with sufficient numbers for statistical power (cancers of lung and bronchus, esophagus, rectum, cervix uteri, corpus uteri, and breast). We simulated the immunologic consequences of SR, RS, and radiotherapy alone in a mathematical model of tumor-immune interactions. RESULTS RS improved OS for cancers with low 20-year survival rates (lung: hazard ratio [HR], 0.88; P = .046) and improved DFS for cancers with higher survival (breast: HR = 0.64; P , .001). For rectal cancer, with intermediate 20-year survival, RS improved both OS (HR = 0.89; P = .006) and DFS (HR = 0.86; P = .04). Model simulations suggested that RS could increase OS by eliminating cancer for a broader range of model parameters and radiotherapy-induced antitumor immunity compared with SR for selected parameter combinations. This could create an immune memory that may explain increased DFS after RS for certain cancers. CONCLUSION Study results suggest plausibility that radiation to the bulk of the tumor could induce a more robust immune response and better harness the synergy of radiotherapy and antitumor immunity than postsurgical radiation to the tumor bed. This exploratory study provides motivation for prospective evaluation of immune activation of RS versus SR in controlled clinical studies
    • Immunology. Antigen feast or famine.

      Dustin, Michael L; Müller, A; Skirball Institute for Molecular Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA. michael.dustin@med.nyu.edu (2012-01-27)
    • Implications of Intravital Imaging of Murine Germinal Centers on the Control of B Cell Selection and Division.

      Binder, Sebastian C; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016)
      Intravital imaging of antibody optimization in germinal center (GC) reactions has set a new dimension in the understanding of the humoral immune response during the last decade. The inclusion of spatio-temporal cellular dynamics in the research on GCs required analysis using the agent-based mathematical models. In this study, we integrate the available intravital imaging data from various research groups and incorporate these into a quantitative mathematical model of GC reactions and antibody affinity maturation. Interestingly, the integration of data concerning the spatial organization of GCs and B cell motility allows to draw conclusions on the strength of the selection pressure and the control of B cell division by T follicular helper cells.
    • In silico analysis of cell cycle synchronisation effects in radiotherapy of tumour spheroids.

      Kempf, Harald; Hatzikirou, Haralampos; Bleicher, Marcus; Müller, A; Department of Systems Immunology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany ; Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Frankfurt, Germany. (2013-11)
      Tumour cells show a varying susceptibility to radiation damage as a function of the current cell cycle phase. While this sensitivity is averaged out in an unperturbed tumour due to unsynchronised cell cycle progression, external stimuli such as radiation or drug doses can induce a resynchronisation of the cell cycle and consequently induce a collective development of radiosensitivity in tumours. Although this effect has been regularly described in experiments it is currently not exploited in clinical practice and thus a large potential for optimisation is missed. We present an agent-based model for three-dimensional tumour spheroid growth which has been combined with an irradiation damage and kinetics model. We predict the dynamic response of the overall tumour radiosensitivity to delivered radiation doses and describe corresponding time windows of increased or decreased radiation sensitivity. The degree of cell cycle resynchronisation in response to radiation delivery was identified as a main determinant of the transient periods of low and high radiosensitivity enhancement. A range of selected clinical fractionation schemes is examined and new triggered schedules are tested which aim to maximise the effect of the radiation-induced sensitivity enhancement. We find that the cell cycle resynchronisation can yield a strong increase in therapy effectiveness, if employed correctly. While the individual timing of sensitive periods will depend on the exact cell and radiation types, enhancement is a universal effect which is present in every tumour and accordingly should be the target of experimental investigation. Experimental observables which can be assessed non-invasively and with high spatio-temporal resolution have to be connected to the radiosensitivity enhancement in order to allow for a possible tumour-specific design of highly efficient treatment schedules based on induced cell cycle synchronisation.
    • In-silico insights on the prognostic potential of immune cell infiltration patterns in the breast lobular epithelium.

      Alfonso, J C L; Schaadt, N S; Schönmeyer, R; Brieu, N; Forestier, G; Wemmert, C; Feuerhake, F; Hatzikirou, H; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016-10-12)
      Scattered inflammatory cells are commonly observed in mammary gland tissue, most likely in response to normal cell turnover by proliferation and apoptosis, or as part of immunosurveillance. In contrast, lymphocytic lobulitis (LLO) is a recurrent inflammation pattern, characterized by lymphoid cells infiltrating lobular structures, that has been associated with increased familial breast cancer risk and immune responses to clinically manifest cancer. The mechanisms and pathogenic implications related to the inflammatory microenvironment in breast tissue are still poorly understood. Currently, the definition of inflammation is mainly descriptive, not allowing a clear distinction of LLO from physiological immunological responses and its role in oncogenesis remains unclear. To gain insights into the prognostic potential of inflammation, we developed an agent-based model of immune and epithelial cell interactions in breast lobular epithelium. Physiological parameters were calibrated from breast tissue samples of women who underwent reduction mammoplasty due to orthopedic or cosmetic reasons. The model allowed to investigate the impact of menstrual cycle length and hormone status on inflammatory responses to cell turnover in the breast tissue. Our findings suggested that the immunological context, defined by the immune cell density, functional orientation and spatial distribution, contains prognostic information previously not captured by conventional diagnostic approaches.
    • Influenza A virus-induced thymus atrophy differentially affects dynamics of conventional and regulatory T-cell development in mice.

      Elfaki, Yassin; Robert, Philippe A; Binz, Christoph; Falk, Christine S; Bruder, Dunja; Prinz, Immo; Floess, Stefan; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; Huehn, Jochen; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany.; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56,38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (Wiley-VCH, 2021-02-26)
      Foxp3+ Treg cells, which are crucial for maintenance of self-tolerance, mainly develop within the thymus, where they arise from CD25+ Foxp3- or CD25- Foxp3+ Treg cell precursors. Although it is known that infections can cause transient thymic involution, the impact of infection-induced thymus atrophy on thymic Treg (tTreg) cell development is unknown. Here, we infected mice with influenza A virus (IAV) and studied thymocyte population dynamics post infection. IAV infection caused a massive, but transient thymic involution, dominated by a loss of CD4+ CD8+ double-positive (DP) thymocytes, which was accompanied by a significant increase in the frequency of CD25+ Foxp3+ tTreg cells. Differential apoptosis susceptibility could be experimentally excluded as a reason for the relative tTreg cell increase, and mathematical modeling suggested that enhanced tTreg cell generation cannot explain the increased frequency of tTreg cells. Yet, an increased death of DP thymocytes and augmented exit of single-positive (SP) thymocytes was suggested to be causative. Interestingly, IAV-induced thymus atrophy resulted in a significantly reduced T-cell receptor (TCR) repertoire diversity of newly produced tTreg cells. Taken together, IAV-induced thymus atrophy is substantially altering the dynamics of major thymocyte populations, finally resulting in a relative increase of tTreg cells with an altered TCR repertoire.
    • Influenza epidemic surveillance and prediction based on electronic health record data from an out-of-hours general practitioner cooperative: model development and validation on 2003-2015 data.

      Michiels, Barbara; Nguyen, Van Kinh; Coenen, Samuel; Ryckebosch, Philippe; Bossuyt, Nathalie; Hens, Niel; BRICS - Braunschweig Integrated Centre of Systems Biology, Rebenring 56. 38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-01-18)
      Annual influenza epidemics significantly burden health care. Anticipating them allows for timely preparation. The Scientific Institute of Public Health in Belgium (WIV-ISP) monitors the incidence of influenza and influenza-like illnesses (ILIs) and reports on a weekly basis. General practitioners working in out-of-hour cooperatives (OOH GPCs) register diagnoses of ILIs in an instantly accessible electronic health record (EHR) system. This article has two objectives: to explore the possibility of modelling seasonal influenza epidemics using EHR ILI data from the OOH GPC Deurne-Borgerhout, Belgium, and to attempt to develop a model accurately predicting new epidemics to complement the national influenza surveillance by WIV-ISP.