As the SARS-CoV-2 virus took hold in the world's population, an IU-led international group rapidly built a SARS-CoV-2 tissue simulator to provide crucial understanding of how the virus spreads.
Simulating the virus to save lives
The SARS-Cov-2 tissue simulator enables rapid creation of multiscale models to shed light on how the virus moves through human tissue and how the immune system responds. By modeling different sites of infection, researchers can study “what if” scenarios. The overall goal is to identify new therapies and develop effective treatments.
With a COVID-19 vaccine still not available, this project can help identify interventions that can disrupt and slow the disease in patients, minimize harmful damage, and accelerate our response to a critical international health threat.
IU researcher Paul Macklin created his first model late in the evening of March 25, live tweeting his progress over 12 hours. Within a couple of days, an international coalition had formed, enabling researchers to arrive at potential answers much more quickly than if they were working on their own. By summer 2020, the international team had grown to more than 40 regular contributors across 20-plus institutions and was at work on its fourth version of the simulation tool
We are building a resource to share best results, estimates, and data. This way, we can pool our expertise and experience to much more rapidly attack COVID-19. We also know SARS-CoV-2 will not be the last novel pathogen or pandemic we will face. After we build this coalition and community resource, it will be available for the next health crisis.Paul Macklin, associate professor of intelligent systems engineering at IU Bloomington
The learning shared from so many fields and domains may well help solve other problems as well, such as advances in cancer treatments. With the SARS CoV-2 simulator, Macklin says, “We’re learning how to coordinate big teams to rapidly build multiscale models. We should do this for other problems, too!”
Macklin is an associate professor in IU's Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering at IU Bloomington.