SFI: Seminar on The Immune System Detects Intruders by Randomly Migrating Detectors


Monday, July 23 • 12:15 p.m. • Medium Conference Room

The Immune System Detects Intruders by Randomly Migrating Detectors

Rob J. De Boer
Theoretical Biology & Bioinformatics, Utrecht University; SFI External Professor

Abstract: The immune system is a distributed system where billions of individual cells, each carrying a unique receptor (detector), scavenge the body to detect the presence of pathogens (intruders) in any of its tissues.

The very few cells detecting a pathogen will expand, generating a large clone of effector cells that together become capable of clearing the infection.

Novel techniques in microscopy allow us to visualize the migration of these cells in living tissues, and to actually see how they clear infected cells. 

These techniques deliver complex data sets that are difficult to analyze.

We therefore approach the data by mathematical and computer modeling.

A Cellular Potts Model of T cells migrating through tissues is used as an artificial environment to study the behavior of the cells and to test the models for data analysis.

We will show that the migration of T cells is mostly random and nevertheless efficient at detecting pathogens.

Note: The SFI is unable to accommodate members of the public for its limited lunch service; members of the public are welcome to bring their own.

SFI Host: Doug Erwin


The Santa Fe Institute’s mission is to foster a transdisciplinary research community that endeavors to expand the boundaries of scientific understanding. Its aim is to discover and comprehend the common fundamental principles in physical, computational, biological, and social systems that underlie many of the most profound problems facing science and society today.


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