Models of dietary effects on immune responses in pigs

The gut is the primary site for the intake, processing, and absorption of nutrients. The mucosal layer of the gut contains the largest repertoire of immune cells and forms a critical barrier to the external environment. Within the gut, nutrients and other feed/food components strongly interact with the residing microbes and with epithelial cells. These interactions affect a number of processes related to intestinal immunity, tolerance and barrier functions. Such processes of the gut could be represented as nodes in a model, as well as their mutual dependencies in quantitative terms.


The long term objective of this project is to contribute to the development of mechanistic mathematical simulation models to investigate how ingredients in animal feeds modulate the in vivo innate immune functions of the pig gut. The first of the specific objectives is to find out which cells, processes or molecules in the gut are most important in maintaining gut homeostasis. The second objective is to choose appropriate methods for statistical analysis or model building based on this discovery. The ultimate goal is to use the results of the previous analyses or the models to further analyse and define the relationships between the important components of the gut.


By incorporating the current and new knowledge about the dietary effects on the components, the model may evolve into a dynamic model with predictive capacities. This will allow manipulation of the existing information to extract new hidden information or connections. Linking biological information with models is especially effective if it occurs in a “modelling cycle” consisting of both “wet” and “dry” parts. This is an iterative process of gathering and evaluating biological information, experimental data and model parts to improve the model framework and generate testable hypotheses.

PhD thesis Nirupama Benis (click here)