Questions for Virtual Wounds: Computers probe healing

immune cell model

When the body needs to deliver immune cells to an injury, new blood vessels form. Here, an agent-based model imitates that. It shows what happens when mouse eye tissue (on left) gets blood vessels from developing eye tissue (on right).  


Joseph Walpole, University of Virginia


Before reading:

1.    Why do live-action movies rely on computer effects for some scenes? What are some of the advantages of doing so?

2.    How does your body respond to a scrape or cut? What visible changes occur, from the moment of injury through the healing process?

During reading:

1.    What is the “mission” of inflammatory cells?

2.    What manages the process of inflammation?

3.    Provide an example of a mistake that inflammatory cells might make.

4.    Define “agent-based modeling.”

5.    Why is agent-based modeling so helpful in studying complex environments?

6.    Describe the unexpected behavior that emerged on the virtual battlefield created for the movie.

7.    What jobs do neutrophils perform? And what’s the job of macrophages?

8.    Explain what happens when a patient develops sepsis.

After reading:

  1. “Agent-based modeling provides the possibility of looking at the interaction between the parts.” Discuss this statement with a partner and then brainstorm other complex systems, processes or environments where agent-based modeling could be used to understand how different parts interact.


  1. Imagine you wanted to use agent-based modeling to study all the ways people move into, through and out of a large city during the day. First create a list of the kinds of virtual agents that would interact inside your computer program. Next, describe some of the rules a few of these agents would have to follow. Keep in mind how, say, the driver of a car responds to a green, yellow or red traffic light.