Auckland Bioengineering Institute

Immune and Lymphatic System


The immune system spans a wide range of scales, from the whole body (m) down to a T cell (µm), and includes both the blood and lymphatic circulation systems. During an immune response many different cells are active, including lymphocytes, dendritic cells, macrophages and natural killer cells. Generally this response occurs in tissue, however many crucial stages occur inside lymph nodes. The current goals of this group are to simulate the immune response in lymph nodes with emphasis on the spatial and temporal aspects, and to improve our understanding of lymphatic drainage using advanced computational models.


Lymphatic drainage patterns in melanoma and breast cancer

In a number of cancers, solid tumours spread through the lymphatic system to regional lymph nodes. We have developed a computational model to visualise and analyse patterns of melanoma and breast cancer spread, using an extensive lymphoscintigraphy database from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) Medical Centre in Sydney, Australia. These models allow clinicians to predict possible sites of metastatic spread from any area of human skin or from any region in the breast.


Modelling the adaptive immune response

We are developing models to simulate the multiple processes involved in the mobilization and activation of T cells during an immune response. In the agent-based approach large numbers of cells are simulated as they migrate and interact in the lymph node. The lymph node model incorporates processes at a range of scales: receptor-ligand dynamics, cytokine fields, cell trafficking and motility, T cell-dendritic cell interactions, and TCR stimulation leading to T cell activation and proliferation.


Determining lymph node structure

Using the Institute’s structural measurement rig we are in the process of characterizing the structure of a whole mouse lymph node, with emphasis on the fibro-reticular network, the lymphatics and the vasculature. We are particularly interested in how the fibre network influences cell motility, and how the network adjusts to the expansion of a node during an immune response.

Funding partners

The Immune and Lymphatic System Group gratefully acknowledges the support of its funding partners: