Marcia McSwegan

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Research title: Modelling in vitro host-parasite infection

Research Summary

Computational modelling is an invaluable asset to scientists and pharaceutical companies as it can allow for a cost-effective means of testing the impact of various scenarios without the wastage and financial costs that in vitro tests carry. Traditional in vitro tests are carried out using cells in a petri dish which is not indicative of the scenario drugs and cells are exposed to in the human body. Whether drug is targeted within the bloodstream, lymph cells or in the joints, etc. - they will always be exposed to different flow rates.  Cells in the human body are also organised into three-dimensional scaffold structures to best support growth and make it easier to control and monitor the growing cells micro-environment (e.g. oxygen rate and pH levels). I hope to test, using computational modelling, whether fluid flow does, as hypothesised, have an impact on the process of endocytosis. I will apply our model to data for the neglected troptical parasitic disease, Leishmaniasis, but since endocytosis is an immune process common to all micro-organism related infections, it is hoped that we will be able to apply the model beyond Leishmaniasis. 

The research will break down into the use of the boundary immobilsation method with an additional reaction-kinetics based condition on the boundary to model endocytosis. This allows the wrapping and the the receptor-ligand binding to be captured by the model. Next, fluid flow will be introduced in to this model. Following this, the fate of the parasite following internalisation will be explored, modelling nutrient/chemical exchange. Finally fluid flow should then be introduced to this to explore the impact.