Past Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar

21 February 2020
14:00
Abstract

Tensors are higher dimensional analogues of matrices, used to record data with multiple changing variables. Interpreting tensor data requires finding multi-linear stucture that depends on the application or context. I will describe a tensor-based clustering method for multi-dimensional data. The multi-linear structure is encoded as algebraic constraints in a linear program. I apply the method to a collection of experiments measuring the response of genetically diverse breast cancer cell lines to an array of ligands. In the second part of the talk, I will discuss low-rank decompositions of tensors that arise in statistics, focusing on two graphical models with hidden variables. I describe how the implicit semi-algebraic description of the statistical models can be used to obtain a closed form expression for the maximum likelihood estimate.

  • Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar
14 February 2020
14:00
Abstract

The pRED Clinical Pharmacology Disease Modelling Group (CPDMG) aims to better understand the biological basis of inter-patient variability of clinical response to drugs.  Improved understanding of how our drugs drive clinical responses informs which combination dosing regimens (“right drugs”) specific patient populations (“right patients”) are most likely to benefit from. Drug evoked responses are driven by drug-molecular-target interactions that perturb target functions. These direct, "proximal effects" (typically activation and/or inhibition of protein function) propagate across the biological processes these targets participate in via “distal effects” to drive clinical responses. Clinical Systems Pharmacology approaches are used by CPDMG to predict the mechanisms by which drug combinations evoke observed clinical responses. Over the last 5 years, CPDMG has successfully applied these approaches to inform key decisions across clinical development programs. Implementation of these approaches requires: (i) integration of prior relevant biological/clinical knowledge with large clinical and “omics” datasets; (ii) application of supervised machine learning (specifically, Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs)) to transform this knowledge/data into actionable, clinically relevant, mechanistic insights.  In this presentation, key features of these approaches will be discussed by way of clinical examples.  This will provide a framework for outlining the current limitations of these approaches and how we plan to address them in the future.

  • Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar
7 February 2020
14:00
Abstract

Single cell RNA-Seq data is challenging to analyse due to problems like dropout and cell type identification. We present a novel clustering 
approach that applies mixture models to learn interpretable clusters from RNA-Seq data, and demonstrate how it can be applied to publicly 
available scRNA-Seq data from the mouse brain. Having inferred groupings of the cells, we can then attempt to learn networks from the data. These 
approaches are widely applicable to single cell RNA-Seq datasets where  there is a need to identify and characterise sub-populations of cells.

 

  • Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar
24 January 2020
14:00
Abstract

Globally, almost 38 million people are living with HIV.  HPTN 071 (PopART) is the largest HIV prevention trial to date, taking place in 21 communities in Zambia and South Africa with a combined population of more than 1 million people.  As part of the trial an individual-based mathematical model was developed to help in planning the trial, to help interpret the results of the trial, and to make projections both into the future and to areas where the trial did not take place. In this talk I will outline the individual-based mathematical model used in the trial, the inference framework, and will discuss examples of how the results from the model have been used to help inform policy decisions.  

  • Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar
29 November 2019
14:00
Abstract

In the first part of the talk, I will describe surface colonization strategies of the motile bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa. During early stages of biofilm formation, the majority of cells that land on a surface eventually detach. After a prolonged lag time, cells begin to cover the surface rapidly. Reversible attachments provide cells and their descendants with multigenerational memory of the surface that primes the planktonic population for colonization. Two different strains use different surface sensing machinery and show different colonization strategies. We use theoretical modelling to investigate how the hydrodynamics of type IV pili and flagella activity lead to increased detachment rates and show that the contribution from this hydrodynamic effect plays a role in the different colonization strategies observed in the two strains.

In the second part of the talk, I will show that when cells migrate through constricting pores, there is an increase in DNA damage and mutations. Experimental observations show that this breakage is not due to mechanical stress. I present an elastic-fluid model of the cell nucleus, coupled to kinetics of DNA breakage and repair proposing a mechanism by which nuclear deformation can lead to DNA damage. I show that segregation of soluble repair factors from the chromatin during migration leads to a decrease in the repair rate and an accumulation of damage that is sufficient to account for the extent of DNA damage observed experimentally.

  • Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar
22 November 2019
14:00
Abstract

Understanding the mechanisms of mutagenesis is important for prevention and treatment of numerous diseases, most prominently cancer. Large sequencing datasets revealed a substantial number of mutational processes in recent years, many of which are poorly understood or of completely unknown aetiology. These mutational processes leave characteristic sequence patterns in the DNA, often called "mutational signatures". We use bioinformatics methods to characterise the mutational signatures with respect to different genomic features and processes in order to unravel the aetiology and mechanisms of mutagenesis. 

In this talk, I will present our results on how mutational processes might be modulated by DNA replication. We developed a linear-algebra-based method to quantify the magnitude of replication strand asymmetry of mutational signatures in individual patients, followed by detection of these signatures in early and late replicating regions. Our analysis shows that a surprisingly high proportion (more than 75 %) of mutational signatures exhibits a significant replication strand asymmetry or correlation with replication timing. However, distinct groups of signatures have distinct replication-associated properties, capturing differences in DNA repair related to replication, and how different types of DNA damage are translated into mutations during replication. These findings shed new light on the aetiology of several common but poorly explained mutational signatures, such as suggesting a novel role of replication in the mutagenesis due to 5-methylcytosine (signature 1), or supporting involvement of oxidative damage in the aetiology of a signature characteristic for oesophageal cancers (signature 17). I will conclude with our ongoing work of wet-lab validations of some of these hypotheses and usage of computational methods (such as genetic algorithms) in guiding the development of experimental protocols.

  • Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar
15 November 2019
14:00
Abstract

The spatial coordination of cellular differentiation enables functional organogenesis. How coordination results in specific patterns of differentiation in a robust manner is a fundamental question for all developmental systems in biology. Theoreticians such as Turing and Wolpert have proposed the importance of specific mechanisms that enable certain types of patterns to emerge, but these mechanisms are often difficult to identify in natural systems. Therefore, we have started using synthetic biology to ask whether specific mechanisms of pattern formation can be engineered into a simple cellular background. In this talk, I will show several examples of emergent spatial patterning that results from the insertion of synthetic signalling pathways and transcriptional logic into E. coli. In all cases, we use computational modelling to initially design circuits with a desired outcome, and improve the selection of biological components (DNA sub-sequences) that achieve this outcome according to a quantifiable measure. In the specific case of Turing patterns, we have yet to produce a functional system in vivo, but I will describe new analytical tools that are helping to guide the design of synthetic circuits that can produce a Turing instability.

  • Mathematical Biology and Ecology Seminar

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