The Basic Immune Simulator: an agent-based model to study the interactions between innate and adaptive immunity

Theor Biol Med Model. 2007 Sep 27;4:39. doi: 10.1186/1742-4682-4-39.


Background: We introduce the Basic Immune Simulator (BIS), an agent-based model created to study the interactions between the cells of the innate and adaptive immune system. Innate immunity, the initial host response to a pathogen, generally precedes adaptive immunity, which generates immune memory for an antigen. The BIS simulates basic cell types, mediators and antibodies, and consists of three virtual spaces representing parenchymal tissue, secondary lymphoid tissue and the lymphatic/humoral circulation. The BIS includes a Graphical User Interface (GUI) to facilitate its use as an educational and research tool.

Results: The BIS was used to qualitatively examine the innate and adaptive interactions of the immune response to a viral infection. Calibration was accomplished via a parameter sweep of initial agent population size, and comparison of simulation patterns to those reported in the basic science literature. The BIS demonstrated that the degree of the initial innate response was a crucial determinant for an appropriate adaptive response. Deficiency or excess in innate immunity resulted in excessive proliferation of adaptive immune cells. Deficiency in any of the immune system components increased the probability of failure to clear the simulated viral infection.

Conclusion: The behavior of the BIS matches both normal and pathological behavior patterns in a generic viral infection scenario. Thus, the BIS effectively translates mechanistic cellular and molecular knowledge regarding the innate and adaptive immune response and reproduces the immune system's complex behavioral patterns. The BIS can be used both as an educational tool to demonstrate the emergence of these patterns and as a research tool to systematically identify potential targets for more effective treatment strategies for diseases processes including hypersensitivity reactions (allergies, asthma), autoimmunity and cancer. We believe that the BIS can be a useful addition to the growing suite of in-silico platforms used as an adjunct to traditional research efforts.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Autoimmunity
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Computer Graphics
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Immunity, Active*
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Immunological
  • Teaching Materials
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Virus Diseases / immunology