Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar

Please note that the list below only shows forthcoming events, which may not include regular events that have not yet been entered for the forthcoming term. Please see the past events page for a list of all seminar series that the department has on offer.

Past events in this series
19 October 2018
14:00
Abstract

Transdifferentiation, the process of converting from one cell type to another without going through a pluripotent state, has great promise for regenerative medicine. The identification of key transcription factors for reprogramming is limited by the cost of exhaustive experimental testing of plausible sets of factors, an approach that is inefficient and unscalable. We developed a predictive system (Mogrify) that combines gene expression data with regulatory network information to predict the reprogramming factors necessary to induce cell conversion. We have applied Mogrify to 173 human cell types and 134 tissues, defining an atlas of cellular reprogramming. Mogrify correctly predicts the transcription factors used in known transdifferentiations. Furthermore, we validated several new transdifferentiations predicted by Mogrify, including both into and out of the same cell type (keratinocytes). We provide a practical and efficient mechanism for systematically implementing novel cell conversions, facilitating the generalization of reprogramming of human cells. Predictions are made available via http://mogrify.net to help rapidly further the field of cell conversion.

  • Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar
26 October 2018
14:00
Abstract


Atherosclerosis is a manifestation of cardiovascular disease consisting of the buildup of inflamed arterial plaques. Because most heart attacks are caused by the rupture of unstable "vulnerable" plaque, the characterization of plaques and their vulnerability remains an outstanding problem in medicine.

Morphoelasticity is a mathematical framework commonly employed to describe tissue growth.

Its central premise is the decomposition of the deformation gradient into the product of an elastic tensor and a growth tensor.

In this talk, I will present some recent efforts to simulate intimal thickening -- the precursor to atherosclerosis -- using morphoelasticity theory.

The arterial wall is composed of three layers: the intima, media and adventitia. 

The intima is allowed to grow isotropically while the area of the media and adventitia is approximately conserved. 

All three layers are modeled as anisotropic hyperelastic materials, reinforced by collagen fibers.

We explore idealized axisymmetric arteries as well as more general geometries that are solved using the finite element method.

Results are discussed in the context of balloon-injury experiments on animals and Glagovian remodeling in humans.

  • Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar
2 November 2018
14:00
Abstract

Computer vision approaches have made huge advances with deep learning research. These algorithms can be employed as a basis for phenotyping of biological traits from imaging modalities. This can be employed, for example, in the context of facial photographs of rare diseases as a means of aiding diagnostic pathways, or as means to large scale phenotyping in histological imaging. With any data set, inherent biases and problems in the data available for training can have a detrimental impact on your models. I will describe some examples of such data set problems and outline how to build models that are not confounded – despite biases in the training data. 

  • Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar
16 November 2018
14:00
Abstract

Despite progress in understanding many aspects of malignancy, resistance to therapy is still a frequent occurrence. Recognised causes of this resistance include 1) intra-tumour heterogeneity resulting in selection of resistant clones, 2) redundancy and adaptability of gene signalling networks, and 3) a dynamic and protective microenvironment. I will discuss how these aspects influence each other, and then focus on the tumour microenvironment.

The tumour microenvironment comprises a heterogeneous, dynamic and highly interactive system of cancer and stromal cells. One of the key physiological and micro-environmental differences between tumour and normal tissues is the presence of hypoxia, which not only alters cell metabolism but also affects DNA damage repair and induces genomic instability. Moreover, emerging evidence is uncovering the potential role of multiple stroma cell types in protecting the tumour primary niche.

I will discuss our work on in silico cancer models, which is using genomic data from large clinical cohorts of individuals to provide new insights into the role of the tumour microenvironment in cancer progression and response to treatment. I will then discuss how this information can help to improve patient stratification and develop novel therapeutic strategies.

  • Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar
30 November 2018
14:00
Abstract

Switch-like and oscillatory dynamical systems are widely observed in biology. We investigate the simplest biological switch that is composed of a single molecule that can be autocatalytically converted between two opposing activity forms. We test how this simple network can keep its switching behaviour under perturbations in the system. We show that this molecule can work as a robust bistable system, even for alterations in the reactions that drive the switching between various conformations. We propose that this single molecule system could work as a primitive biological sensor and show by steady state analysis of a mathematical model of the system that it could switch between possible states for changes in environmental signals. Particularly, we show that a single molecule phosphorylation-dephosphorylation switch could work as a nucleotide or energy sensor. We also notice that a given set of reductions in the reaction network can lead to the emergence of oscillatory behaviour. We propose that evolution could have converted this switch into a single molecule oscillator, which could have been used as a primitive timekeeper. I will discuss how the structure of the simplest known circadian clock regulatory system, found in cyanobacteria, resembles the proposed single molecule oscillator. Besides, we speculate if such minimal systems could have existed in an RNA world. I will also present how the regulatory network of the cell cycle could have emerged from this system and what are the consequences of this possible evolution from a single antagonistic kinase-phosphatase network.

  • Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar
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