Thursday, October 1, 2015

Robust Parameter Estimation for Biological Systems: A Study on the Dynamics of Microbial Communities 

Matthias Chung, Justin Krueger, Mihai Pop 


Interest in the study of in-host microbial communities has increased in recent years due to our improved understanding of the communities' significant role in host health. As a result, the ability to model these communities using differential equations, for example, and analyze the results has become increasingly relevant. The size of the models and limitations in data collection among many other considerations require that we develop new parameter estimation methods to address the challenges that arise when using traditional parameter estimation methods for models of these in-host microbial communities. In this work, we present the challenges that appear when applying traditional parameter estimation techniques to differential equation models of microbial communities, and we provide an original, alternative method to those techniques. We show the derivation of our method and how our method avoids the limitations of traditional techniques while including additional benefits. We also provide simulation studies to demonstrate our method's viability, the application of our method to a model of intestinal microbial communities to demonstrate the insights that can be gained from our method, and sample code to give readers the opportunity to apply our method to their own research.