Researchers are using computer models to simulate COVID-19 infections at the cellular level – the fundamental structural level of the human body. The models enable virtual studies of drugs and vaccines and open up the possibility of a preliminary assessment of the effectiveness of drugs and vaccines against the virus.
The University of Waterloo research team includes Anita Layton, Professor of Applied Mathematics, and Mehrshad Sadria, PhD student in Applied Mathematics.
The team used in silico Experiments to replicate how the human immune system deals with the COVID-19 virus. In silico refers to experiments in the silicon of computer chips, as opposed to in vitro or in vivo Experiments, in test tubes or directly in living organisms.
“It’s not that in silico Studies should replace clinical trials, ”says Layton. “A model is a simplification, but it can help us reduce drugs for clinical trials. Clinical trials are expensive and can cost lives. Using models helps narrow down drug candidates to those that are best in terms of safety and efficacy.
The researchers who first worked on these models were able to capture the results of various treatments used on COVID-19 patients in clinical trials. They say their results are published in the magazine Viruses, is remarkably consistent with live data on COVID-19 infections and treatments.
An example of a treatment used in the model was Remdesivir, a drug used in the World Health Organization’s global SOLIDARITY trials. Both the simulated model and the live study showed that the drug is biologically effective but clinically questionable if not administered shortly after the viral infection.
The model could also work for current and future worrying variants. The researchers assume that the virus will continue to mutate, which could trigger new waves of infection.
“As we learn more about the different affected variants, we can change the structure or parameters of the model to simulate the interaction between the immune system and the variants,” says Sadria. “[Then we can] predict whether we should use the same treatments or even how the vaccines might work. “
Edited by Gary Cramer