Topological sensitivity analysis for systems biology.

16 Jul 2018

Mathematical models of natural systems are abstractions of much more complicated processes. Developing informative and realistic models of such systems typically involves suitable statistical inference methods, domain expertise, and a modicum of luck. Except for cases where physical principles provide sufficient guidance, it will also be generally possible to come up with a large number of potential models that are compatible with a given natural system and any finite amount of data generated from experiments on that system. Here we develop a computational framework to systematically evaluate potentially vast sets of candidate differential equation models in light of experimental and prior knowledge about biological systems. This topological sensitivity analysis enables us to evaluate quantitatively the dependence of model inferences and predictions on the assumed model structures. Failure to consider the impact of structural uncertainty introduces biases into the analysis and potentially gives rise to misleading conclusions.