Faculty Articles


Modeling Neuroimmune Interactions in Human Subjects and Animal Models to Predict Subtype-Specific Multidrug Treatments for Gulf War Illness.

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Publication Title

International Journal of Molecular Sciences








Gulf War Illness (GWI) is a persistent chronic neuroinflammatory illness exacerbated by external stressors and characterized by fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, cognitive, and neurological problems linked to underlying immunological dysfunction for which there is no known treatment. As the immune system and the brain communicate through several signaling pathways, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, it underlies many of the behavioral and physiological responses to stressors via blood-borne mediators, such as cytokines, chemokines, and hormones. Signaling by these molecules is mediated by the semipermeable blood-brain barrier (BBB) made up of a monocellular layer forming an integral part of the neuroimmune axis. BBB permeability can be altered and even diminished by both external factors (e.g., chemical agents) and internal conditions (e.g., acute or chronic stress, or cross-signaling from the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis). Such a complex network of regulatory interactions that possess feed-forward and feedback connections can have multiple response dynamics that may include several stable homeostatic states beyond normal health. Here we compare immune and hormone measures in the blood of human clinical samples and mouse models of Gulf War Illness (GWI) subtyped by exposure to traumatic stress for subtyping this complex illness. We do this via constructing a detailed logic model of HPA-HPG-Immune regulatory behavior that also considers signaling pathways across the BBB to neuronal-glial interactions within the brain. We apply conditional interactions to model the effects of changes in BBB permeability. Several stable states are identified in the system beyond typical health. Following alignment of the human and mouse blood profiles in the context of the model, mouse brain sample measures were used to infer the neuroinflammatory state in human GWI and perform treatment simulations using a genetic algorithm to optimize the Monte Carlo simulations of the putative treatment strategies aimed at returning the ill system back to health. We identify several ideal multi-intervention strategies and potential drug candidates that may be used to treat chronic neuroinflammation in GWI.



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Peer Reviewed

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