The ISBGroup Blog

The ISBGroup Blog

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Here you can read about everything that's happening in the ISB Group.

Second Swedish Diabetes Summit

EventsPosted by ISB Group Fri, December 01, 2017 15:11:07

Last week some of us (Gunnar, William, Christian, Fredrik and Thea) went to Gothenburg to attend the Second Swedish Diabetes Summit. It’s a summit bringing together basic and clinical research.

We had a good time listening to some really interesting presentations with topics varying from treatment of metabolic diseases to artificial intelligence in health and diabetes. Gunnar was chairman for the session of AI and he and William also presented a poster each.


ISBgroup goes to Almedalen

EventsPosted by Karin Lundengård Wed, May 10, 2017 23:41:38
As part of the collaboration with ”Forska Utan Djurförsök” (The Swedish Fund for Research without Animal Experiments), ISB group is going to Almedalen in July. Almedalen is the biggest political event of the year in Sweden, and Gunnar Cedersund has been invited to participate in two events:

* Monday July 3, 13-14.30 in Maltfabriken. Then Gunnar and a few others will give short initial presentations, followed by a panel debate with politicians, and ended with some hands-on tutorials, by some of the students from ISBgroup. If you want to try to simulate our own models for diabetes, you should come then. (link to more info)

* Thursday July 6, 10-11.30 in Maltfabriken. Then a short introduction will be followed by a longer session with hands-on testing, not only regarding mathematical models but also regarding other experimental alternatives to animal experiments. The focus then is on chemicals and cosmetics testing (involving e.g. the qsar model). (more info)

Apart from these two events, Forska utan djurförsök will also have a final opportunity to come and talk with them on Friday July 7, at 10-11.30 in Maltfabriken. This will be a more informal event, with the opportunity to come and talk and have coffee with people who know a lot about these issues (link).

Karin for ISBgroup

May 11-12, Workshop on biological modelling at LiU

EventsPosted by Gunnar Cedersund Mon, May 08, 2017 18:21:50
There is a workshop upcoming about modelling of biological systems at Linköping university. It will take place Thursday-Friday this week, May 11-12, 2017, and is open to everybody who wants to attend: students, scientists, and the general public. We will contribute with one presentation, at Thursday 16-16.20. This presentation will consist of an overview of our modelling philosphy and of our various modelling projects. Apart from us there will be some 20-25 other groups who will present as well. Almost all of the presenters either still work, or have worked, at LiU, i.e. Linköping university.

More information about the workshop can be found here.

Ph.D. defense of Mikael Forsgren, May 23

EventsPosted by Gunnar Cedersund Mon, May 08, 2017 13:32:25

Last Friday, one of our Ph.D. students - Mikael Forsgren - nailed up his Ph.D. thesis on our local thesis tree. He thus followed in the footsteps of many many others, ranging back possibly even beyond Martin Luther, by thus publically announcing that he has something that he would like to publically discuss: the thoughts and results in his thesis.

The formal defense will be held at 13.15 in Eken, at HU, Linköping, Sweden. The opponent will be Stephen Sourbron, from Leeds, who is an expert on perfusion modelling in different organs. Mikael's thesis is about modelling of not only perfusion, but also of intracellular uptake and release, concerning the contrast agent Primovist. He shows how the estimation of such uptake properties using mechanistic modelling can be used to obtain new patient-specific biomarkers, which can be obtained from MRI examinations, and which thus can move to eventually become a non-invasive replacement for today's invasive liver biopsy examinations. The goal is that this should lead to a reduction in healthcare cost and individual suffering, and to an increase in accuracy and diagnostic power.


Welcome to the ISB-group reunion party

EventsPosted by ISB Group Thu, November 10, 2016 12:03:02
On October 26, 2006 ~ 10 years ago! - Gunnar Cedersund defended his PhD thesis. This was the start of the process of creating the reseach group To celebrate the 10-year mark, we have decided to arrange on January 14th 2017 a reunion party for anyone who has been involved so far!

Event: Reunion

Location: Linköping (Specifics tbd)

Date: 14th January 2017

If you're interested in the current projects or how your past project has fared, you'll get the chance to catch up during the evening. We are also very interested in the path you've chosen, so if you can, please do join us and tell us what you have been up to since we last saw you in the group. The day will consist of some lectures and general social interactions with the chance to see what has happened with everyone in the day, and a BIG party in the evening.

In case your invitation got lost in the Internet, please contact us at to reserve. We hope to see you in Linköping in January!

The reunion committee

Gunnar Cedersund
Elin Nyman
Rikard Johansson
Karin Lundengård
Fredrik Eklund
Johanna Fridberger

PS. Below are some group pictures to help you reminisce.

Gunnar defending his thesis 2006.

ISB group 2010.

ISB group 2012.

ISB group 2015.

Keynote lecture at Swetox workshop on 3R

EventsPosted by Gunnar Cedersund Tue, October 11, 2016 07:29:35
The travel period is now just completed, and I am looking forward to writing a report and summary of some of the most important discoveries and news discovered at these meetings in a later blog. Our field - modelling of biological systems - is in a very intensive phase of expansion right now, with a wide variety of events and simultaneous developments going on. Apart from the 4 meetings I/we have attended in the last 3-4 weeks, there are several other important events that we will miss, that are happening now (FOSBE, Magdeburg, Oct 9-12, on Foundations of Systems biology in Engineering) and within the next few weeks (e.g. the first conf of the European Association of Systems Medicine, Berlin, Oct 26-28, Berlin, link).

Figure 1: Me giving a lecture, before recieving the award Nytänkaren from the Swedish Fund for Research without Animal Experiments.

For now, however, I just want to say that one of the developments that is especially interesting to me right now is that concerning modelling in drug and device certifications, and how modelling there can be used in a 3R context, i.e. to replace, reduce and refine usage of animal experiments. I have previously won the first edition of a newly instated prize on this topic - Nytänkaren, Fig 1 - and several of the workshops and conferences I have just attended have had important news on the topic. For instance, I learned that the Food and Drug Administration in the US just have finalized a new report on how to use modelling in device certifications (Fig 2). I also learned interesting details of a second report, due to be published in 2017, which together with the first report will consitute a first complete guide to how modelling should be used in biomedical device certifications. In practice, the same guide will be used as a proxy also for certifications of new drugs, since the principles behind a sound usage of modelling are quite general. In fact, these guides have drawn quite a lot from similar guides already developed and established by NASA, where simulations already are considered mainstream in the development and certification of new space products. In short, I am quite impressed by these guidelines, and think that they have identified more sound principles than are being used in much of today's research. In other words, these are really important developments!Figure 2: The new report just issued by FDA. Note the date, it was published a few weeks ago!

As a follow-up to these developments, and to me recieving the 3R award Nytänkaren, I have been invited to give a keynote lecture at a workshop at Karolinska Institutet, which takes place today. This workshop is arranged by Swetox and has the overall title "Replace animal use and increase scientific impact". My talk is entitled "When laying the puzzle instead of just generating new pieces, animal experiments become increasingly irrelevant". In this talk, I will give a more detailed report on some of the developments above, of my own research on the topic, and about some of the most important showcases that already are existing in the field. If you cannot attend the meeting yourself, you can still check out much of the material: some slides on the FDA developments are available here and a recent overview of our own research including an already FDA-approved glucose simulation model is found here. Finally, a two-sentence summary of the main statement given in the title of my talk is as follows: "if you want to test hypotheses regarding human mechanisms on the systems level, and create a systems-level understanding for the human system, you need data from a single system: humans. Thus, when science switches its focus to this more important endeavor, instead of just generating new hypotheses and pieces of knowledge that never are forged together and tested in a systems-level context, then animal experiments will become increasingly irrelevant".

Figure 3: First page of my keynote presentation today. It is one of the first times, perhaps even the first time, that I am giving a lecture denoted as keynote, so I am looking much forward to it!

New presentation: doing biology without modelling is like driving without a safety belt

EventsPosted by Gunnar Cedersund Fri, August 26, 2016 20:14:54

So, now vacation time is over here in Sweden – and work is back with its full hustle-bustle frenzy. I (Gunnar) started working on Wednesday last week, and since then I have already submitted one application (to SSF's industrial Ph.D. programme together with AstraZeneca, on the creation of a new systems pharmacology platform, based on modelling which is used to bridge between pre-clinical organs-on-a-chip data and human/clinical studies), had two supervision days, changed office (my main office is now at the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and not Clinical and Experimental Medicine), did the final preparations for the half ironman race this weekend, and went to Gothenburg to give a lecture in the group of Patrik Rorsman and Charlotta Olofsson. It is about this last topic, my presentation, that I want to say a few extra words also here.

Figure 1: Front page of my presentation earlier today.

The title of my presentation was “Doing biology without modelling is like driving without a safety belt – it might work, but it might also go really, really wrong”. The talk was a salespitch to an essentially all experimentalist-audience, and it is based on an image that came to my mind just a few days ago. The image is a response to some of the most common forms of critique I usually hear against the usage of modelling: “I could have said that without using the model”, “I don’t believe that a model can do everything, I think there is still too much that we don’t understand”, and “the model only seems to provide an extra degree of confidence on a conclusion I would have said anyway”.

And, the thing is that I actually – to a large extent - agree with all of those statements. Modelling cannot do everything, and should not be oversold - but it can do some things, and those things should be properly appreciated. Similarly, many modelling results are conclusions one could have drawn without the usage of modelling, and what the modelling does is therefore in many respects primarily to put and extra degree of confidence on that conclusions, if that was the conclusion you anyway would have made. And just like for a safety belt, when driving: often you don’t need it, you would be fine anyway, but it is more secure to have it there, to bring an extra degree of security and confidence to the current situation. In other words, if a model agrees with your conclusion, you can be more sure that you are correct. However, in the presentation, I also gave several examples of cases where the modelling provides a conclusion that seems perfectly reasonable once you see it, but where the prevailing conclusion before the model-analysis was done, actually was a very different one. Apart from our main diabetes examples, I pointed to three probably less known such stories:

Figure 2: The difference between the new way of calculating EC50 values (black) with the old one (red).

1) Our EC50 story, published in FEBS J last year. There we showed that a simple model-analysis could detect a problem with a previous way of calculating EC50 values: that the steady-state was not reached in-between the changes in stimuli. In other words, the resulting curve was not an increase in steady-state values, but a long transient overlaying of overshoot responses. That new interpretation of the data had some predictions, which we verified in independent experiments, supporting our new interpretation of the data. Furthermore, it was experimentally not possible to modify the protocol, to wait as long as one should to reach steady-state. Therefore, the only way for this system to get correct EC50 values (corresponding to steady-state values) is to do what we propose: to fit the model to a transient responses like the one already existing, and then use the model to simulate the experiment as it ideally should have been done to start with. As you see in Figure 2 above, the new, more correct EC50 value is almost completely non-overlapping with the old one.

2) An earlier story of muscle metabolism, where we showed that a seeming contradiction and missing link – which had been investigated for 25 years – in fact was not a contradiction at all, but merely a mis-interpretation of data. And that re-interpreted version sounds very reasonable once you see it. In other words, for 25 years, people had believed that a not yet discovered regulator of glycolysis was active in anaerobic muscle recovery, but our modelling showed that no search for such an unknown regulator is necessary: a correct analysis of the data shows that the conventional regulators are sufficient to explain the observations. This story is not yet published, but anyway available as chapter 11 in my Ph.D. thesis.

3) Another recent story on interpretation of data for the IL1beta analog Anakinra (Palmér et al, CPT Pharmacometrics Syst Pharm, 2014). In this story, we had a look at data that seemed to be too good to be true, and therefore were disbelieved by many: that Anakinra could have lasting positive effects on the diabetes readout HbA1c as long tie as 1 year after the start of the treatment, even though the treatment itself only lasted for 3 months. We showed that a simple model based on pre-clinical data alone did actually produce that clinical output as well. In other words, we showed that the initial response was that the initial disbelief in the clinical data was unnecessary: they were perfectly aligned with the pre-clinical data.

Figure 3: Last page in the presentation, summing up the main advantages of doing modelling, i.e. pointing out some of the drawbacks of not using it.

These are three examples that show that modelling in principle does not do anything that one anyway does: analysis of experimental data to draw conclusions and suggest new experiments. However, modelling does these things in a more reliable fashion, and it is easy to go wrong otherwise. In other words, to do biological data analysis without modelling, is just like to driving without a safety belt: it might work, but it might also go really really bad – throwing away 25 years of your life.

Figure 4: On the train on the way back, I happened to be seated right next to a very nice systems biology colleague of mine: Adil Mardinoglu. He told me that he and some colleagues of him had read my last blog post, and wanted to contact me about it. So that is actually the reason why I got inspired to write a new one as well!

New M.Sc. thesis presented: a first proteome-wide dynamic dynamic model of intracellular signalling

EventsPosted by Gunnar Cedersund Sat, July 16, 2016 16:44:04
A couple of weeks ago, our M.Sc. student William Lövfors presented his M.Sc. thesis entitled: "A first phosphoproteomewide mechanistic model of insulin signaling". As the title indicates, this thesis presents the - to our knowledge - first ever presented version of a dynamic mechanistic model (based on ordinary differential equations and realistic assumptions of protein-protein interactions) that describes the entire phosphoproteome, i.e. all phosphorylations in all proteins that are relevant in a certain scenario. The scenario that we study here is the scenario that has been studied the most in our group, insulin signalling, and this systems-wide model is therefore an extension of our previous models. In fact, our most well-developed previous model appears as a sub-model - as the "core" model - in this new systems-wide model, which has been constructed in an iterative fashion, where we add protein after protein, in layer after layer, where each interaction is taken from suggestions in databases containing known or suggested interactions, and where all phosphorylated states in the model can describe dynamic mass spectrometry data. This work will be continued and experimentally validated and refined in various ways, and hopefully published during 2017. If you want to see more of how far we have gotten up until now in this latest status-report, here is a link to William's thesis.

A graphical depiction of the model of all added proteins. The old model we had previously developed is depicted in yellow, all proteins that are connected by high-confidence interactions (3 or more references) are depicted in dark blue, and all proteins reached using one or several low-confidence interactions are depicted in light blue. All proteins can describe time-course data.

A final comment can be made about the academic journey of William so far. He started his journey, as so many others, by doing our project course in the year 3 of the engineering biology programme (TB), whereafter he did a ~9 months intership combined between ISBgroup and Mika Gustafsson's group (then a sub-group of Mikael Benson's group). His project then was devoted to a related project, where we created a systems-wide ODE model for gene-gene interactions (submitted to PLoS Comp Biol). Thereafter, he stayed in contact and in projects with us during the remainder of his M.Sc. studies. The initial project was financed as a scholarship-based research preparatory course, and he has been funded by some occasional months here and there for work in projects and for supervision in our project course, but mostly just by the fact that William has enjoyed working in these projects. During this time he has published one scientific paper (showing that you sometimes need mathematical modelling for something as basic as a correct calculation of EC50 values, link here), has done an oral presentations in international workshop (ISGSB 2014), and is scheduled to be co-author of two additional papers: one soon-to-be-submitted on adiponectin secretion, and one based on the systems-wide insulin signalling study already started in his thesis.

All in all, such an impressive CV is unusual for somebody who has just a few weeks ago finished his M.Sc. thesis, and we are therefore proud to say that William will stay on in our group as a proper employee during the next 6 months, during which we plan to convert his position to a proper Ph.D. position.

Picture of William, also used on his personal home page, here at ISBgroup.


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