Stellenbosch University

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In silico agent-based modeling approach to characterize multiple in vitro tuberculosis infection models

posted on 2024-04-16, 09:15 authored by Alexa Petrucciani, Alexis Hoerter, Leigh Kotze, Nelita Du Plessis, Elsje Pienaar

In vitro models of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection are a valuable tool for examining host-pathogen interactions and screening drugs. With the development of more complex in vitro models, there is a need for tools to help analyze and integrate data from these models. To this end, we introduce an agent-based model (ABM) representation of the interactions between immune cells and bacteria in an in vitro setting. This in silico model was used to simulate both traditional and spheroid cell culture models by changing the movement rules and initial spatial layout of the cells in accordance with the respective in vitro models. The traditional and spheroid simulations were calibrated to published experimental data in a paired manner, by using the same parameters in both simulations. Within the calibrated simulations, heterogeneous outputs are seen for bacterial count and T cell infiltration into the macrophage core of the spheroid. The simulations also predict that equivalent numbers of activated macrophages do not necessarily result in similar bacterial reductions; that host immune responses can control bacterial growth in both spheroid structure dependent and independent manners; that STAT1 activation is the limiting step in macrophage activation in spheroids; and that drug screening and macrophage activation studies could have different outcomes depending on the in vitro culture used. Future model iterations will be guided by the limitations of the current model, specifically which parts of the output space were harder to reach. This ABM can be used to represent more in vitro Mtb infection models due to its flexible structure, thereby accelerating in vitro discoveries.


National Science Foundation grant number ACI1548562



Stellenbosch University


Petrucciani, Alexa; Hoerter, Alexis; Kotze, Leigh; Du Plessis, Nelita; Pienaar,Elsje




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Recommended Citation

Petrucciani, A, Hoerter, A, Kotze, L, Du Plessis, N &Pienaar, E. 2024. In silico agent-based modeling approach to characterize multiple in vitro tuberculosis infection models. Stellenbosch University. Dataset. DOI:

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