Models of dietary effects on immune responses in pigs

The gut is the primary site for the intake, processing, and absorption of nutrients in feeds and foods. 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 the epithelial cells. These interactions affect a number of processes, including processes related to intestinal immunity, tolerance and barrier functions.

The long term objective  of this project is to contribute to the development of mechanistic mathematical simulation models to investigate how ingredients in animal feedstuffs modulate the in vivo (innate) immune and barrier functions of the pig gut. Such models may help to identify specific dietary and microbial factors affecting the in vivo (innate) immunity and epithelial integrity. The research includes the identification of major system “components (nodes)” and their interactions (edges), parameterization of relationships, pin-pointing  key nodes, and integration with key pathways. As a starting point, we will use existing models representing digestive functions and effects on intestinal mucosa as a function of conditions in the gut lumen. By expanding these models with a variety of -omics driven measurements there is great potential for the development of more predictive models, thereby effective in assisting stakeholders to solve problems in practice. The project will be carried out in close connection to the Virtual Modelling Laboratory and fits perfect in the broader program of the Virtual Gut as described in the “Vision paper for IP/OP Systems Biology”.