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Mathematics used to discern immune response to infectious diseases

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine a five-year, $9.1 million contract to develop sophisticated mathematical models for investigating how the immune system responds to the pathogens that cause flu, tuberculosis (TB) and tularemia, an especially dangerous infection that some authorities believe could be used as a biological weapon. Such models should help expedite the development of vaccines and therapies against these and other infectious agents and help researchers and public health officials in their efforts to predict or prevent disease outbreaks as well as determine the best courses of treatment.

The contract establishes Pitt as an Immune Modeling Center, one of four supported by the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and takes advantage of Pitt's existing collaborations with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Michigan.

"This center's work will draw upon our expertise in mathematical modeling of the immune system as well as our knowledge about immunity to infectious diseases. Working as a team of immunologists, computational biologists, computer scientists and mathematicians, our goal is to capture the complexity of the immune system through mathematics," said Penelope A. Morel, M.D., associate professor of immunology and medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and principal investigator of the Pitt-based Immune Modeling Center. Shlomo Ta'asan, Ph.D., professor of mathematics in Carnegie Mellon's Mellon College of Science, is co-principal investigator of the center.

The Immune Modeling Center will focus on understanding the innate, or natural, and adaptive immune responses to influenza A virus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes TB, and Francisella tularensis, the bacterium responsible for tularemia. Since each of these organisms enters the body via the lung, the investigators will study the specific im
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8-Dec-2005


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