Virtual immune system roadmap unveiled: Worldwide effort to create ‘digital twin’ inspired by COVID pandemic

An article published May 20 in Nature’s npj Digital Medicine provides a step-by-step plan for an international effort to create a digital twin of the human immune system.

“This paper outlines a road map that the scientific community should take in building, developing and applying a digital twin of the immune system,” said Tomas Helikar, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln biochemist who is one of 10 co-authors from six universities from around the world. Earlier this year, the National Institutes of Health renewed a five-year $1.8 million grant for Helikar to continue his work in the area.

“This is an effort that will require the collaboration of computational biologists, immunologists, clinicians, mathematicians and computer scientists,” he said. “Trying to break down this complexity down into measurable and achievable steps has been a challenge. This paper is addressing that.”

A digital twin of the immune system would be a breakthrough that could offer precision medicine for a wide array of ailments, including cancer, autoimmune disease and viral infections like COVID-19.

Helikar’s involvement has been inspired in part by his 7-year-old son, who required a lung transplant as an infant. This has resulted in a life-long careful balancing of his immune system through powerful immunosuppression drugs to prevent organ rejection while keeping infections and other diseases at bay.

While the first step is to create a generic model that reflects common biological mechanisms, the eventual goal is to make virtual models at the individual level. That would enable doctors to deliver treatments precisely designed for the individual.

Source: Read Full Article