Section: Research Program

Methodological axis 1: analysis and control for population dynamics

Personnel Pierre-Alexandre Bliman, Jean Clairambault, Marie Doumic, Benoît Perthame, Diane Peurichard, Nastassia Pouradier Duteil, Philippe Robert

Project-team positioning

Population dynamics is a field with varied and wide applications, many of them being in the core of MAMBA interests - cancer, bacterial growth, protein aggregation. Their theoretical study also brings a qualitative understanding on the interplay between individual growth, propagation and reproduction in such populations. In the past decades, many results where obtained in the BANG team on the asymptotic and qualitative behavior of such structured population equations, see e.g.  [135], [73], [99], [84]. Other Inria teams interested by this domain are Mycenae, Numed and Dracula, with which we are in close contacts. Among the leaders of the domain abroad, we can cite among others our colleagues Tom Banks (USA), Graeme Wake (New Zealand), Glenn Webb (USA), Jacek Banasiak (South Africa), Odo Diekmann (Netherlands), with whom we are also in regular contact. Most remarkably and recently, connections have also been made with probabilists working on Piecewise Deterministic Markov Processes (F. Malrieu at the university of Rennes, Jean Bertoin at the ETH in Zurich, Vincent Bansaye at Ecole Polytechnique, Julien Berestycki at Cambridge, Amaury Lambert at College de France, M. Hoffmann at Paris Dauphine, Alex Watson in UCL, London and J. Bertoin in Zurich), leading to a better understanding of the links between both types of results – see also the Methodological axis 3.

Scientific achievements

We divide this research axis, which relies on the study of structured population equations, according to four different applications, bringing their own mathematical questions, e.g., stability, control, or blow-up.

Time asymptotics for nucleation, growth and division equations

Following the many results obtained in the BANG team on the asymptotic and qualitative behavior of structured population equation, we put our effort on the investigation of limit cases, where the trend to a steady state or to a steady exponential growth described by the first eigenvector fails to happen. In  [78], the case of equal mitosis (division into two equally-sized offspring) with linear growth rate was studied, and strangely enough, it appeared that the general relative entropy method could also be adapted to such a non-dissipative case. Many discussions and common workshops with probabilists, especially through the ANR project PIECE coordinated by F. Malrieu, have led both communities to work closer.

In  [96], the case of constant fragmentation rate and linear growth rate has been investigated in a deterministic approach, whereas similar questions were simultaneously raised but in a stochastic process approach in  [75].

We also enriched the models by taking into account a nucleation term, modeling the spontaneous formation of large polymers out of monomers  [147]. We investigated the interplay between four processes: nucleation, polymerization, depolymerization and fragmentation.

New perspectives are now to consider not only one species but several interacting ones, which may exhibit complex interplays which may lead to damped oscillations or to infinite growth; these are in collaboration with C. Schmeiser and within the Vienna associated team MaMoCeMa (J. Delacour's Ph.D) and with K. Fellner from Graz (M. Mezache's Ph.D).

Cell population dynamics and its control

One of the important incentives for such model design, source of many theoretical works, is the challenging question of drug-induced drug resistance in cancer cell populations, described in more detail below in the Applicative axis 1, Cancer. The adaptive dynamics setting used consists of phenotype-structured integro-differential [or reaction-diffusion, when phenotype instability is added under the form of a Laplacian] equations describing the dynamic behavior of different cell populations interacting in a Lotka-Volterra-like manner that represents common growth limitation due to scarcity of expansion space and nutrients. The phenotype structure allows us to analyse the evolution in phenotypic traits of the populations under study and its asymptotics for two populations  [128], [125], [124], [126]. Space may be added as a complementary structure variable provided that something is known of the (Cartesian) geometry of the population  [127], which is seldom the case.

Modelling Mendelian and non-Mendelian inheritances in density-dependent population dynamics

Classical strategies for controlling mosquitoes responsible of vector-borne disease are based on mechanical methods, such as elimination of oviposition sites; and chemical methods, such as insecticide spraying. Long term usage of the latter generates resistance [81], [110], transmitted to progeny according to Mendelian inheritance (in which each parent contributes randomly one of two possible alleles for a trait). New control strategies involve biological methods such as genetic control, which may either reduces mosquito population in a specific area or decreases the mosquito vector competence [61], [120], [156]. Among the latter, infection of wild populations by the bacterium Wolbachia appears promising (see also Applicative axis 2 below). Being maternally-transmitted, the latter obeys non-Mendelian inheritance law. Motivated by the effects of the (possibly unwanted) interaction of these two types of treatment, we initiated the study of modelling of Mendelian and non-Mendelian inheritances in density-dependent population dynamics. First results are shown in [59].

Control of collective dynamics

The term self-organization is used to describe the emergence of complex organizational patterns from simple interaction rules in collective dynamics systems. Such systems are valuable tools to model various biological systems or opinion dynamics, whether it be the collective movement of animal groups, the organization of cells in an organism or the evolution of opinions in a large crowd. A special case of self-organization is given by consensus, i.e. the situation in which all agents' state variables converge. Another phenomenon is that of clustering, when the group is split into clusters that each converge to a different state. We have designed optimal control strategies to drive collective dynamics to consensus. In the case where consensus and clustering are situations to be avoided (for example in crowd dynamics), we designed control strategies to keep the system away from clustering.

Models of neural network

Mean field limits have been proposed by biophysicists in order to describe neural networks based on physiological models. The various resulting equations are called integrate-and-fire, time elapsed models, voltage-conductance models. Their specific nonlinearities and the blow-up phenomena make their originality which has led to develop specific mathematical analysis [138], followed by [134], [119], [139], [83]. This field also yields a beautiful illustration for the capacity of the team to combine and compare stochastic and PDE modelling (see Methodological axis 3), in [89].

Models of interacting particle systems

The organisation of biological tissues during development is accompanied by the formation of sharp borders between distinct cell populations. The maintenance of this cell segregation is key in adult tissue homeostatis, and its disruption can lead tumor cells to spread and form metastasis. This segregation is challenged during tissue growth and morphogenesis due to the high mobility of many cells that can lead to intermingling. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms involved in the generation and maintain of cell segregation is of tremendous importance in tissue morphogenesis, homeostasis, and in the development of various invasive diseases such as tumors. In this research axis, we aim to provide a mathematical framework which enables to quantitatively link the segregation and border sharpening ability of the tissue to these cell-cell interaction phenomena of interest [72]. As agent-based models do not enable precise mathematical analysis of their solutions due to the lack of theoretical results, we turn towards continuous -macroscopic- models and aim to provide a rigorous link between the different models [71].

Models of population dynamics structured in phenotype

The collaboration of Jean Clairambault with Emmanuel Trélat and Camille Pouchol (from September this year assistant professor at MAP5 Paris-Descartes, University of Paris), together now with Nastassia Pouradier Duteil, has been continued and presently leads us to a possible quantitative biological identification of the structuring phenotypes of the model developed in  [146], through a beginning collaboration with an Indian systems biologist (Mohit Kumar Jolly, IIS Bangalore). Our motivation in this collaboration is to couple a physiologically based system of 6 ODEs developed by our Indian collaborator with our phenotype-structured cell population dynamics model [13], [45].

In the framework of the HTE project EcoAML 2016-2020, Thanh Nam Nguyen, Jean Clairambault, Delphine Salort and Benoît Perthame, in collaboration with Thierry Jaffredo at IBPS-SU, have designed a phenotype-structured integrodifferential model of interactions between haematopoietic stem cells (healthy or leukaemic) and their supporting stromal cells [24]. In this model, without diffusion, to our relative astonishment, our postdoctoral fellow T.N. Nguyen predicts in particular that under special circumstances, a coexistence between healthy and leukaemic stem cell subpopulations is possible.The explanation of such possible theoretical coexistence still remains to be explained.

The idea of cooperation between cell subpopulations in a tumour is also studied using phenoytype-structured models of cell populations by Frank Ernesto Alvarez Borges, PhD student of Stéphane Mischler (Paris-Dauphine University), Mariano Rodríguez Ricard (University of Havana, Cuba) and Jean Clairambault, in collaboration with José Antonio Carrillo (Imperial College London). A feature of these models, in as much as conflicting continuous phenotypes (e.g., adhesivity vs. motility, or fecundity vs. viability, or fecundity vs. motility  (as proposed by John Maynard Keynes and Eös Száthmary in their book “The major transitions in evolution” (OUP 1995) as a condition of the emergence of multicellularity under environmental pressure)) are supposed to structure a unique cell population, is that they can also represent the emergence of multicellularity in such a cell population, when two subpopulations of the same population, i.e., endowed with the same genome and represented w.r.t. relevant heterogeneity in the cell population by such conflicting phenotypes, are determined by two different choices of the 2-d phenotype. In a simplified representation when the two phenotypes are just extreme values of a 1-d continuous phenotype (e.g., 0 for total adhesivity and no motility, 1 for no adhesivity and complete motility) this situation may be related to the previously described case, developed in [24], in which two extreme values of a convex function linked to proliferation are occupied by the two extreme phenotype values (0 and 1), leading to the coexistence of two cell subpopulations.


  • Nucleation, growth and fragmentation equations: Klemens Fellner, university of Graz, Austria, Piotr Gwiązda, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland, Christian Schmeiser, university of Vienna.

  • Cell population dynamics and its control: Tommaso Lorenzi, former Mamba postdoc, now at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, maintains a vivid collaboration with the Mamba team. He is in particular an external member of the HTE program MoGlImaging (see also Applicative axis 1). Emmanuel Trélat, Sorbonne Université professor, member of LJLL and of the CAGE Inria team, is the closest Mamba collaborator for optimal control. Benedetto Piccoli, Professor at Rutgers University (Camden, New Jersey), is collaborating on the analysis and control of collective dynamics.

  • Mendelian inheritance and resistance in density-dependent population dynamics: Pastor Pérez-Estigarribia, Christian Schaerer, Universidad Nacional de Asunción, Paraguay.

  • Neural networks: Delphine Salort, Professor Sorbonne Université, Laboratory for computations and quantification in biology, and Patricia Reynaud, University of Nice, Maria Cáceres, University of Granada.

  • Models of interacting particle systems: Pierre Degond, Imperial College London, Julien Barré, MAPMO, Orléans, Ewelina Zatorska, University College London