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Dynamic models of immune responses: what is the ideal level of detail?

Juilee Thakar1*, Mary Poss2, Réka Albert1, Gráinne H Long1 and Ranran Zhang2

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics and Department of Physics, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA

2 Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania State University, College of Medicine, Hershey, PA 17033 USA

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Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling 2010, 7:35  doi:10.1186/1742-4682-7-35

Published: 20 August 2010



One of the goals of computational immunology is to facilitate the study of infectious diseases. Dynamic modeling is a powerful tool to integrate empirical data from independent sources, make novel predictions, and to foresee the gaps in the current knowledge. Dynamic models constructed to study the interactions between pathogens and hosts' immune responses have revealed key regulatory processes in the infection.

Optimum complexity and dynamic modeling

We discuss the usability of various deterministic dynamic modeling approaches to study the progression of infectious diseases. The complexity of these models is dependent on the number of components and the temporal resolution in the model. We comment on the specific use of simple and complex models in the study of the progression of infectious diseases.


Models of sub-systems or simplified immune response can be used to hypothesize phenomena of host-pathogen interactions and to estimate rates and parameters. Nevertheless, to study the pathogenesis of an infection we need to develop models describing the dynamics of the immune components involved in the progression of the disease. Incorporation of the large number and variety of immune processes involved in pathogenesis requires tradeoffs in modeling.