Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jason H. Bates

Second Advisor

Maggie J. Eppstein


Multiple research problems related to the lung involve a need to take into account the spatiotemporal dynamics of the underlying component cells. Two such problems involve better understanding the nature of the allergic inflammatory response to explore what might cause chronic inflammatory diseases such as asthma, and determining the rules underlying stem cells used to engraft decellularized lung scaffolds in the hopes of growing new lungs for transplantation. For both problems, we model the systems computationally using agent-based modeling, a tool that enables us to capture these spatiotemporal dynamics by modeling any biological system as a collection of agents (cells) interacting with each other and within their environment. This allows to test the most important pieces of biological systems together rather than in isolation, and thus rapidly derive biological insights from resulting complex behavior that could not have been predicted beforehand, which we can then use to guide wet lab experimentation.

For the allergic response, we hypothesized that stimulation of the allergic response with antigen results in a response with formal similarity to a muscle twitch or an action potential, with an inflammatory phase followed by a resolution phase that returns the system to baseline. We prepared an agent-based model (ABM) of the allergic inflammatory response and determined that antigen stimulation indeed results in a twitch-like response. To determine what might cause chronic inflammatory diseases where the twitch presumably cannot resolve back to baseline, we then tested multiple potential defects to the model. We observed that while most of these potential changes lessen the magnitude of the response but do not affect its overall behavior, extending the lifespan of activated pro-inflammatory cells such as neutrophils and eosinophil results in a prolonged inflammatory response that does not resolve to baseline. Finally, we performed a series of experiments involving continual antigen stimulation in mice, determining that there is evidence in the cytokine, cellular and physiologic (mechanical) response consistent with our hypothesis of a finite twitch and an associated refractory period.

For stem cells, we made a 3-D ABM of a decellularized scaffold section seeded with a generic stem cell type. We then programmed in different sets of rules that could conceivably underlie the cell's behavior, and observed the change in engraftment patterns in the scaffold over selected timepoints. We compared the change in those patterns against the change in experimental scaffold images seeded with C10 epithelial cells and mesenchymal stem cells, two cell types whose behaviors are not well understood, in order to determine which rulesets more closely match each cell type. Our model indicates that C10s are more likely to survive on regions of higher substrate while MSCs are more likely to proliferate on regions of higher substrate.



Number of Pages

249 p.

Available for download on Friday, April 07, 2017