Synthesis report for the years 2014-2017

Here you can find the general presentation of the team: Mamba presentation – 2014 to 2017

and you may download the synthesis report: MAMBA synthesis report – 2014 to 2017

Context and overall objectives of the project-team

The MAMBA (Modelling and Analysis in Medical and Biological Applications) team is the continuation of the BANG (Biophysics, Numerical Analysis and Geophysics) team, which itself was a continuation of the former project-team M3N. Historically, the BANG team, headed by Benoît Perthame during 11 years (2003-2013), has developed models, simulations and numerical algorithms for problems involving dynamics of Partial Differential Equations (PDEs).

The dynamics of complex physical or biophysical phenomena involves many agents, e.g. proteins or cells – which can be seen as active agents. Mathematically, they can be represented either explicitly as individuals with their dynamics modelled e.g. through branching trees and piecewise deterministic Markov processes (PDMP), or stochastic differential equations, or under certain conditions be grouped or locally averaged, in which case their dynamics is mimicked by Ordinary or Partial Differential Equations (ODEs/PDEs).

Biology and medicine presently face the difficulty to make sense of the data newly available by means of recent signal acquisition methods and to take appropriate actions through possible treatment pathways. Modeling through agent-based or continuous models is a unique way to explain (model) the observations and then compute, control and predict the consequences of the mechanisms under study. These are the overall goals of Mamba.

Last activity report : 2018


New Results

Modelling Polymerization Processes

Nucleation Phenomena.

A new stochastic model of polymerization including the nucleation has been analyzed in  [article]. A Functional Central Limit Theorem for the Becker-Döring model in an infinite dimensional state space is established in [article].

An oscillatory model of polymerisation-depolymerisation.

In 2017, we evidenced the presence of several polymeric species by using data assimilation methods to fit experimental data from H. Rezaei’s lab  [article]. In collaboration with Klemens Fellner from the university of Graz, we now propose a new model, variant of the Becker-Döring system but containing two monomeric species, capable of displaying sustained though damped oscillations  [article].

Time asymptotics for nucleation, growth and division equations.

We revisited the well-known Lifshitz-Slyozov model, which takes into account only polymerisation and depolymerisation, and progressively enriched the model. Taking into account depolymerisation and fragmentation reaction term may surprisingly stabilisde the system, since a steady size-distribution of polymers may then emerge, so that “Ostwald ripening” does not happen  [article].

Cell population dynamics and its control

The PhD thesis work of Camille Pouchol (co-supervisors Jean Clairambault, Michèle Sabbah, INSERM, and Emmanuel Trélat, Inria CAGE and LJLL) has been continued, leading after his first article published in the J. Maths Pures Appl.  [article], summarised in  [article], to his PhD defence in June  [article], and to a diversification of his research activities in various directions related to population dynamics and optimal control with Antoine Olivier, Emmanuel Trélat and Enrique Zuazua  [article], [article] or to more general questions  [article].

Measure solutions for the growth-fragmentation equation

As recalled in the section ”Foundations”, entropy methods for population dynamics have been successfully developed around B. Perthame and co-authors. We recently extend such methods to the growth-fragmentation equation, in collaboration with P. Gwiazda, E. Wiedemann and T. Debiec  [article], using the framework of generalised Young measures.

Large Stochastic Networks

The equilibrium properties of allocation algorithms for networks with a large number of nodes with finite capacity are investigated in  [article] and in  [article].

Control Strategies for Sterile Insect Techniques

We proposed different models to serve as a basis for the design of control strategies relying on releases of sterile male mosquitoes (Aedes spp) and aiming at elimination of wild vector population. Different types of releases were considered (constant, periodic or impulsive) and sufficient conditions to reach elimination were provided in each case [article], [article], [article]. We also estimated sufficient and minimal treatment times. A feedback approach was introduced, in which the impulse amplitude is chosen as a function of the actual wild population [article], [article], [article].

Optimal replacement strategies, application to Wolbachia

We modelled and designed optimal release control strategy with the help of a least square problem. In a nutshell, one wants to minimize the number of uninfected mosquitoes at a given time horizon, under relevant biological constraints. We derived properties of optimal controls and studied a limit problem providing useful asymptotic properties of optimal controls [article], [article].

Oscillatory regimes in population models

Understanding mosquitoes life cycle is of great interest presently because of the increasing impact of vector borne diseases. Observations yields evidence of oscillations in these populations independent of seasonality, still unexplained. We proposed [article], [article] a simple mathematical model of egg hatching enhancement by larvae which produces such oscillations that conveys a possible explanation.

On the other hand, population oscillations may be induced by seasonal changes. We considered a biological population whose environment varies periodically in time, exhibiting two very different “seasons”, favorable and unfavorable. We addressed the following question: the system’s period being fixed, under what conditions does there exist a critical duration above which the population cannot sustain and extincts, and below which the system converges to a unique periodic and positive solution? We obtained [article], [article] sufficient conditions for such a property to occur for monotone differential models with concave nonlinearities, and applied the obtained criterion to a two-dimensional model featuring juvenile and adult insect populations.

Feedback control principles for population replacement by Wolbachia

The issue of effective scheduling of the releases of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes is an interesting problem for Control theory. Having in mind the important uncertainties present in the dynamics of the two populations in interaction, we attempted to identify general ideas for building release strategies, which should apply to several models and situations [article]. These principles were exemplified by two interval observer-based feedback control laws whose stabilizing properties were demonstrated when applied to a model retrieved from [article].

Bacterial motion by run and tumble

Collective motion of chemotactic bacteria such as Escherichia coli relies, at the individual level, on a continuous reorientation by runs and tumbles. It has been established that the length of run is decided by a stiff response to a temporal sensing of chemical cues along the pathway. We describe in [article] a novel mechanism for pattern formation stemming from the stiffness of chemotactic response relying on a kinetic chemotaxis model which includes a recently discovered formalism for the bacterial chemotaxis. We prove instability both for a microscopic description in the space-velocity space and for the macroscopic equation, a flux-limited Keller-Segel equation, which has attracted much attention recently. A remarkable property is that the unstable frequencies remain bounded, as it is the case in Turing instability. Numerical illustrations based on a powerful Monte Carlo method show that the stationary homogeneous state of population density is destabilized and periodic patterns are generated in realistic ranges of parameters. These theoretical developments are in accordance with several biological observations.

This motivates also our study of traveling wave and aggregation in population dynamics of chemotactic cells based on the FLKS model with a population growth term [article]. Our study includes both numerical and theoretical contributions. In the numerical part, we uncover a variety of solution types in the one-dimensional FLKS model additionally to standard Fisher/KPP type traveling wave. The remarkable result is a counter-intuitive backward traveling wave, where the population density initially saturated in a stable state transits toward an un- stable state in the local population dynamics. Unexpectedly, we also find that the backward traveling wave solution transits to a localized spiky solution as increasing the stiffness of chemotactic response. In the theoretical part, we obtain a novel analytic formula for the minimum traveling speed which includes the counter-balancing effect of chemotactic drift vs. reproduction/diffusion in the propagating front. The front propagation speeds of numerical results only slightly deviate from the minimum traveling speeds, except for the localized spiky solutions, even for the backward traveling waves. We also discover an analytic solution of unimodal traveling wave in the large-stiffness limit, which is certainly unstable but exists in a certain range of parameters.

Numerical methods for cell aggregation by chemotaxis

Three-dimensional cultures of cells are gaining popularity as an in vitro improvement over 2D Petri dishes. In many such experiments, cells have been found to organize in aggregates. We present new results of three- dimensional in vitro cultures of breast cancer cells exhibiting patterns. Understanding their formation is of particular interest in the context of cancer since metastases have been shown to be created by cells moving in clusters. In the paper [article], we propose that the main mechanism which leads to the emergence of patterns is chemotaxis, i.e., oriented movement of cells towards high concentration zones of a signal emitted by the cells themselves. Studying a Keller-Segel PDE system to model chemotactical auto-organization of cells, we prove that it is subject to Turing instability if a time-dependent condition holds. This result is illustrated by two-dimensional simulations of the model showing spheroidal patterns. They are qualitatively compared to the biological results and their variability is discussed both theoretically and numerically.

This motivates to study parabolic-elliptic Keller-Segel equation with sensitivity saturation, because of its pattern formation ability, is a challenge for numerical simulations. We provide in [article] two finite-volume schemes that are shown to preserve, at the discrete level, the fundamental properties of the solutions, namely energy dissipation, steady states, positivity and conservation of total mass. These requirements happen to be critical when it comes to distinguishing between discrete steady states, Turing unstable transient states, numerical artifacts or approximate steady states as obtained by a simple upwind approach. These schemes are obtained either by following closely the gradient flow structure or by a proper exponential rewriting inspired by the Scharfetter-Gummel discretization. An interesting fact is that upwind is also necessary for all the expected properties to be preserved at the semi-discrete level. These schemes are extended to the fully discrete level and this leads us to tune precisely the terms according to explicit or implicit discretizations. Using some appropriate monotonicity properties (reminiscent of the maximum principle), we prove well-posedness for the scheme as well as all the other requirements. Numerical implementations and simulations illustrate the respective advantages of the three methods we compare.

Focus on cancer

Modelling Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) and its control by anticancer drugs by PDEs and Delay Differential equations

This theme has continued to be developed in collaboration with Catherine Bonnet, Inria DISCO (Saclay)  [article], [article]. Without control by drugs, but with representation of mutualistic interactions between tumor cells and their surrounding support stroll cells, it has also, in collaboration with Delphine Salort and Thierry Jaffredo (LCQB-IBPS) given rise to a recent work by Thanh Nam Nguyen, hired as HTE and ERC postdoctoral fellow at LCQB, submitted as full article  [article].

Adaptive dynamics setting to model and circumvent evolution towards drug resistance in cancer by optimal control

The research topic “Evolution and cancer”, designed in the framework of adaptive dynamics to represent and overcome acquired drug resistance in cancer, initiated in  [article], [article] and later continued in  [article], [article], [article], has been recently summarised in  [article] and has been the object of the PhD thesis work of Camille Pouchol, see above “Cell population dynamics and its control” . It is now oriented, thanks to work underway by Cécile Carrère, Jean Clairambault, Tommaso Lorenzi and Grégoire Nadin, in particular towards the mathematical representation of bet hedging in cancer, namely a supposed optimal strategy consisting for cancer cell populations under life-threatening cell stress in diversifying their phenotypes according to several resistance mechanisms, such as overexpression of ABC transporters (P-glycoprotein and many others), of DNA repair enzymes or of intracellular detoxication processes. According to different deadly insults the cancer cell population is exposed to, some phenotypes may be selected, any such successful subpopulation being able to store the cell population genome (or subclones of it if the cell population is already genetically heterogeneous) and make it amenable to survival and renewed replication.

Philosophy of cancer biology

This new research topic in Mamba, dedicated to explore possibly underinvestigated, from the mathematical modelling point of view, parts of the field of cancer growth, evolution and therapy, has been the object of a presentation by Jean Clairambault at the recent workshop “Philosophy of cancer biology’ ( This workshop gathered most members worldwide of this small, but very active in publishing, community of philosophers of science whose field of research is “philosophy of cancer”, as they call it themselves. This topic offers a clear point of convergence between mathematics, biology and social and human sciences.

Deformable Cell Modeling: biomechanics and Liver regeneration

  • Biomechanically mediated growth control of cancer cells The key intriguing novelty was that the same agent-based model after a single parameter has been calibrated with growth data for multicellular spheroids without application of external mechanical stress by adapting a single parameter, permitted to correctly predict the growth speed of multicellular spheroids of 5 different cell lines subject of external mechanical stress. Hereby the same mechanical growth control stress function was used without any modification [article]. The prediction turned out to be correct independent of the experimental method used to exert the stress, whereby once a mechanical capsule has been used, once dextran has been used in the experiments.

  • Regeneration of liver with the Deformable Cell Model. The key novelty was the implementation of the model itself, but an interesting novel result is that the DCM permits closure of a pericentral liver lobule lesion generated by drug-induced damage with about 5 times smaller active migration force due to the ability of the cell to strongly deform and squeeze into narrow spaces between the capillaries. This finding stresses that a precise mechanical description is important in view of quantitatively correct modeling results [article]. The deformable cell model however could be used to calibrate the interaction forces of the computationally much cheaper center-based model to arrive at almost the same results.