Modelling the systemic and tissue-level immune response to SARS-CoV-2

Adrianne Jenner
Wed, Jun 24, 2020
CAIMS - PIMS Coronavirus Modelling Conference

The primary distinction between severe and mild COVID-19 infections is the immune response. Disease severity and fatality has been observed to correlate with lymphopenia (low blood lymphocyte count) and increased levels of inflammatory cytokines and IL-6 (cytokine storm), damaging dysregulated macrophage responses, and T cell exhaustion due to limited recruitment. The exact mechanism driving the dynamics that ultimately result in severe COVID-19 manifestation remain unclear. Over the past two months, we have been working on developing tissue- and systemic-level models of the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection with the goal of pinpointing what may be causing dysregulated immune dynamics in severe cases. At the tissue level, we been working as part of an international collaboration to build a computational framework to study SARS-CoV-2 in the tissues. This platform is based upon PhysiCell, an open-source computational cell-based software. With this model, we have been investigating how the level of pro-inflammatory cytokines influence immune cell recruitment into the infected tissue and how this correlates with tissue damage. In parallel, we have constructed a systemic, within-host delay-differential equation model that accounts for the interactions between immune cell subsets, cytokines, lung tissue, and virus to help understand differential responses in COVID-19. While this work is still ongoing, this talk will address how a variety of mathematical and computational techniques contribute to the ongoing study of SARS-CoV-2 infections, helping to increase our understanding of COVID-19 severity.

* with Sofia Alfonso (McGill University), Rosemary Aogo (University of Tennessee Health Science Center), Courtney Davis (Pepperdine University), Amber M. Smith (University of Tennessee Health Science Center), Morgan Craig (Université de Montréal, CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre)