Inflammation and airway remodeling occur in a variety of airway diseases. Modeling aspects of the inflammatory and fibrotic processes following repeated exposure to particulate matter may provide insights into a spectrum of airway diseases, as well as prevention/treatment strategies. An agent-based model (ABM) was created to examine the response of an abstracted population of inflammatory cells (nominally macrophages, but possibly including other inflammatory cells such as lymphocytes) and cells involved in remodeling (nominally fibroblasts) to particulate exposure. The model focused on a limited number of relevant interactions, specifically those among macrophages, fibroblasts, a pro-inflammatory cytokine (TNF-α), an anti-inflammatory cytokine (TGF-β1), collagen deposition, and tissue damage. The model yielded three distinct states that were equated with (1) self-resolving inflammation and a return to baseline, (2) a pro-inflammatory process of localized tissue damage and fibrosis, and (3) elevated pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, persistent tissue damage, and fibrosis outcomes. Experimental results consistent with these predicted states were observed in histology sections of lung tissue from mice exposed to particulate matter. Systematic in silico studies suggested that the development of each state depended primarily upon the degree and duration of exposure. Thus, a relatively simple ABM resulted in several, biologically feasible, emergent states, suggesting that the model captures certain salient features of inflammation following exposure of the lung to particulate matter. This ABM may hold future utility in the setting of airway disease resulting from inflammation and fibrosis following particulate exposure.
- Agent-based model
- Systems biology