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Math Model May Lead to Better Tuberculosis Treatment

Last Updated: June 24, 2009.

Manipulating the "switching time" when the immune system activates its most powerful cells against airborne pathogens may lead to more effective treatments for tuberculosis, according to a study published online June 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

WEDNESDAY, June 24 (HealthDay News) -- Manipulating the "switching time" when the immune system activates its most powerful cells against airborne pathogens may lead to more effective treatments for tuberculosis, according to a study published online June 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Judy Day, Ph.D., of Ohio State University in Columbus, and colleagues developed a mathematical model to detail the interactions among cells, bacteria, and cytokines involved in the activation of alternatively activated macrophages and classically activated macrophages, and identify possible ways to shorten the switching time.

The researchers' model found that the usual switching time occurs an average of 50 days after tuberculosis bacteria enter the lung, and showed that interferon gamma introduced early in the immune response would shorten the switching time and reduce the bacterial load, but not completely clear the residual load. Although the research suggests that macrophage activation requires more than the manipulation of one cytokine, the researchers said that interferon gamma may play a key role with other cytokines in new tuberculosis therapies.

"The model, based on a system of differential equations, represents a useful tool to analyze strategies for reducing the switching time, and to generate hypotheses for experimental testing," the authors conclude.

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