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PII: S0016-0032(97)00004-5

Insl. Vol. 3358, No. 2, pp. 259-279, 1998

B 1997 The Franklm Institute
Published by Elsevier Science Ltd
Printed in Great Britam
0016-0032/98 %19.00+0.00

Design of Experiments


Departments of Biostatistics
Arbor, MI, U.S.A.


and Physiology,

The University

of Michigan,


10 July 1996; accepted 3 January 1997)

In this article the author reuiews and presents the theory involved in the design of
experiments for parameter estimation, a process of importance for pharmacokinetics, the study qf
intermediary metabolism and other sections of biological research. The design of experiments
involves both formal and informal aspects. The formal theories of identifiability of parameters and
model distinguishability, and the generation of optimal sampling schedules, play major roles. qfter
presenting these theories, both the formal and informal aspects are studied in the examination of a
simple but realistic example. 0 1997 The Franklin Institute. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd


The term design of experiments covers a large number of activities. Some are
strongly dependent on experience in a particular field and are so informal as to be
labeled intuitive. Others depend on formal mathematical developments such as in
optimization theory. Furthermore, the term has distinctly different meanings in statistics and in systems theory.
The goal of this paper is first, to provide an overview that distinguishes between the
different uses of the term design of experiments, and then to concentrate on the design
of experiments in the context of systems theory, where the theories of identifiability,
optimal sampling theory and model distinguishability play major roles. In the main,
the paper is concerned with the design of input-output experiments in which the
number of samples, though possibly large, is more usually limited.
The design of experiments


In a general sense, the design of experiments involves all stages in the choice of which
experiments to use to test hypotheses. That includes the choice of experimental subjects,
operations to be carried out and measurements to be made, as well as the choice of
measuring instruments. All of that is strongly dependent on the state of knowledge in
the field and on the technology available to make measurements. Many experiments

*To whom all correspondence

should be addressed
48104, U.S.A. Tel: (313) 663-4783.


at: 490 Huntington

Drive, Ann Arbor,



J. A. Jacquez

are now feasible that could not be carried out even 10 years ago. As done in the dayto-day operation of a laboratory, much of this is intuitive; it comes out of laboratory
meetings in which progress and problems in a project are discussed, usually at least
It is important to realize that the major early activities in the development of any
field consist of gathering data and ordering and classifying it in an attempt to define
the operational entities which can serve as conceptual units in forming a meaningful
picture of the structure of that part of the universe. It is only when that activity is well
underway, so that some knowledge and hypotheses about the structure of the field has
accumulated, that one can really design experiments.
The design of experiments is the operational side of the scientific method which is
based on a few principles. One principle, often labeled Popperian (l),
is that one cannot
prove hypotheses, one can only disprove hypotheses. However, that idea goes further
back and was well stated by Fisher (2) in his book The Design of Experiments. Thus
the recommended strategy for scientific investigation is to design experiments with a
view to disproving a hypothesis at hand. Less well known is the method of Strong
Inference (3) due to Platt. If one can formulate a complete set of alternative hypotheses
about an issue, then one can design experiments to systematically disprove one after
another of the hypotheses until only one non-falsifiable hypothesis remains. That one
must be true.
The role of models and modeling
Models First, let us distinguish between two different types of models because what

a physiologist or biochemist calls a model is quite different from what a statistician

calls a model. The physiological literature now distinguishes between two extremes in
a spectrum of models. One extreme has been called models of systems, the other
models of data (4). A model of system is one in which we know the equations that
describe the action of the basic physical laws that drive the system. For that reason, I
prefer the term, models of process, and will use that term. In contrast, a model of data
is one that fits the data without reference to the basic processes that generate the data.
However, it is possible to have a model of data that is generated by a model of process.
Also, it is possible to have a model of a system which is a model of process for part of
the system and a model of data for other parts of the system.
Exploring with models For most problems there is some information on the structure
and function of the system as well as some data in the literature. Given that, and the
availability of simulation software, one can generate models that incorporate the
available information and run them to see how they respond to different experiments
designed to test hypotheses that are current in the field. Simulation allows one to
explore how good candidate models are in explaining known data and how well they
perform in testing hypotheses. That sort of exploratory modeling can play an important
role in the planning process.
I believe that efficiency in the experimental sciences involves judiciously combining
modeling and actual experimentation. Laboratory experiments are expensive in time
and resources. Although one may have to run a few experiments to obtain preliminary
estimates of parameters and to check techniques, it is generally inefficient to rush to
carry out many experiments. It is far more efficient to formally list hypotheses and the

Design of Experiments


models of possible experiments and then to run the experiments on the models of the
system. Then one can check identifiability, model distinguishability and generate optimal sampling designs so as to do fewer but more efficient experiments.
Design of experiments



First we have to distinguish between the statistical design of experiments and design
of experiments in systems work.
The field of statistics has developed a body of theory, often called design of experiments, which is quite different from the subject matter of this paper. It is concerned
with models of data from experiments in which one compares the effects of two or
more treatments. The emphasis is on formal methods of randomization in allocating
treatments so as to optimize between-treatment comparisons. It arose first in the
analysis of experiments in agriculture. Major issues are to eliminate bias by proper
randomization, choice of proper controls, stratification, balance in treatment comparisons and the generation of designs such as factorial designs. Statistical design of
experiments is the basis for extensive developments on the analysis of variance. It is a
field that has been well worked and is treated in many standard texts in statistics, as
well as some specialist texts (2,5). It owes much to the early work of Fisher (2).
This paper is not concerned with the statistical design of experiments but with design
for parameter estimation of models of process. The next few sections are devoted to
the presentation of the theory of a number of techniques that are components of the
design of experiments. After an introduction to basic systems theory, identifiability and
methods of checking identifiability, estimability and optimal sampling schedules and
model distinguishability are presented and then these are used in an example as an

Basic systems theory

In the biological sciences we try to obtain models of process of the system of interest
in order to analyze the outcomes of experiments. To do that, we can think in terms of
two stages in the modeling process.
1. A model of the system represents the current hypotheses of the structure, rate laws

and values of the parameters of the system.

2. A model of the experiment is a model of the experiment done on the model of the
It is important to recognize that: we do experiments

on systems in the real world and

then interpret the data by analysis of models of the experiments done on models of the
systems. It should be noted that in engineering, the terminology is different; there, what

we call the model of an experiment is called the system.

We are concerned with models of experiments. Let x be the vector of state variables
of the model. The inputs in the experiment are often described as the product of a
matrix B and a vector of possible inputs, u. The inputs are linear combinations of the
components of the vector u, i.e. Bu. For given initial conditions and input to the model,
the time course of change in the vector of state variables is usually given by a set of

J. A. Jacquez


differential equations:
Jo = F(x,B,Bu,t);

x(0) = x,,,


where 0 is a vector of the basic kinetic parameters and x0 gives the initial conditions.
To fully specify an experiment, we also have to give the observations. The observations
are usually specified by giving the vector function of the state variables that describes
what is measured
y = G(x,x,,Bu,t) = G(t,+) = G(t,Q.


We call y the observation function or the response function. Notice that G is written
in two ways. G(t,O) is the observation function as a function of time and the basic
parameters, 8. G(t,$) is the observation function as a function of time and parameters
4 called the observational parameters. The observational parameters are functions of
the basic parameters that are uniquely determined by the observation function. In
engineering it is common to refer to input-output experiments, the response function
(observation function) being the output, in the information sense.
The actual observations, zj at time ti, are samples of the response function at different
times with added experimental errors of measurement.
zj = y(t,,4)+t,,

j = 1, . . . ,?I,


where t, is the vector of measurement errors at sample time tj.

If the model is a compartment model (6, 7) with constant transfer coefficients, the
equation corresponding to Eq (1) is:
4 = Kq+Bu;

q(0) = q,,.


In Eq (4), q is the vector of compartment sizes and K is the matrix of transfer

coefficients. The components of K are the basic kinetic or structural parameters of the
model. If the observations are linear combinations of the compartments, the observation function is given by Eq (5) in which C is the observation matrix:
y = cq.


Basic parameters could also be introduced by the experimental design by way of the
initial conditions, q,,, the inputs Bu and the observational matrix, C.
Compartmental models shall be used frequently in this review and in the development
of the theory that follows.
An introductory


A simple example from enzyme kinetics illustrates the basic features of the identifiability problem (6, 8). Consider a one-substrate, one-product enzyme reaction, as
shown in Fig. 1.




Fig. I. One-substrate,



enzyme reaction.

Design of Experiments


Suppose one measures the initial velocity of the formation of product, P, at a series
of substrate concentrations, S, or the initial rate of formation of substrate at a series
of concentrations of product. If the rate of formation of the intermediate complex, ES,
is rapid in relation to the rate of formation of product and substrate, it is well known
that the initial velocities in the forwards and backwards directions show saturation
kinetics in the substrate and product concentrations respectively. Equation (6) gives
the Michaelis-Menten equations for the forward and backward initial velocities
lf =



ub =

Knlb+ [PI

The parameters Vmf, K,,,, and Vm, Kmbare functions of the basic kinetic parameters,
k,, kZ, k,, k, and of the total enzyme concentration, E,, as given by:
4%= VW = k,&,

43 =





From the forwards velocity experiment, one can estimate 4, = V,, and & = K,,;
from the backwards velocity experiment one can estimate c#+= v,,& and @4= Knlb.
Suppose we do only the forwards velocity experiment and estimate 4, and &. If we
know E,, k3 is uniquely determined by the equation for 4, and k, is identifiable.
However, no matter how accurately we determine $, and &, k, and k, cannot be
determined and k4 does not even appear in the equations for 4, and &. On the other
hand, if we do only the backwards velocity experiment, we estimate & and $.+.Then if
we know E,,, k, is uniquely determined by the equation for c#+,so k, is identifiable.
However, no matter how accurately we determine & and 4.+ k, and k4 cannot be
determined and k, does not even appear in the equations for I#+and c$~.
It is clear that only if one knows E,, and one does both of the above experiments,
can one obtain estimates of all four basic kinetic parameters.
Class&ation of parameters
It is important to distinguish between the basic parameters and the parameters that
are determinable by an experiment. The latter are called observational parameters and
are denoted by the symbol $i, i = 1,.
. As can be seen from the example, the
observational parameters are functions of the basic kinetic parameters. If the observational parameters are not functions of a particular basic parameter, that parameter
can be changed without affecting the observations. Such a parameter is insensible in
the experiment and hence is called an insensible parameter. If a basic parameter does
influence the observations in an experiment, it is sensible by that experiment. However,
a sensible parameter may or may not be uniquely determined (identifiable) by the
experiment. In the above example, there were sensible parameters that were identifiable
and others that were not.
Basic parameters may also be introduced by the experimental design. Thus the basic
parameters, i.e. the 8, can be basic kinetic parameters of the system model or parameters
introduced by the experimental design.
In summary, the parameters can be classified as follows:


J. A. Jacquez

1. Observationalparameters:
the observational parameters are determined by the experimental design and are functions of a basic parameter set.
2. Basicparameters:
the basic parameters are the system invariants (kinetic parameters
of the system) plus possibly some parameters introduced by the experimental design.
For a given experiment, they may be:
1. insensible, i.e. do not influence the observations;
2. sensible, i.e. influence the observations in the experiment. In that case, they may
a. identifiable,
b. nonidentifiable.
(a priori identifiability): definitions
The identifiability we have discussed so far is concerned with the question of uniqueness of solutions for the basic parameters from the observation function of a given
experiment. In some of the literature that is also called a priori identifiability to
distinguish it from a posteriori identifiability. Here the term identifiability is used for a
priori identifiability; a posteriori identifiability is included under the term estimability
which is defined later. The various types of (a priori) identifiability that have been
defined in the literature are defined below in (a)-(f).

(a) Local identijability.

If the observation function for an experiment determines a
finite number of values for a parameter, the parameter is locally identifiable. Additional
information may be needed to decide which one of the values is appropriate for the
physiological system you are working on. Local identifiability includes cases of symmetry in models in which two or more parameters play equivalent roles, so their values
can be interchanged.
(b) Global identijiability. If the observation function determines exactly one solution
value for a parameter in the entire parameter space, that parameter is globally identifiable for that experiment. Thus, global identifiability is a subcategory of local identifiability. The term unique identifiability is equivalent to global identifiability.
(c) Structural ident$abiZity. A property of a parameter is structural if it holds almost
everywhere in parameter space. The qualification, almost everywhere means that the
property might not hold on a special subset of measure zero. Thus a parameter could
be globally identifiable almost everywhere but only locally identifiable for a few special
values. The qualifier structural applied to a property means the property is generic,
i.e. it does not depend on the values of the parameters, in the almost everywhere sense
(d) Model identzjiability. If for an experiment, all of the parameters of a model are
globally identifiable, the experiment model is globally identifiable. If all of the parameters are identifiable but at least one is not globally identifiable, the model is only
locally identifiable.
(e) Conditional identijiability. If for an experiment model, a parameter is not identifiable but setting the values of one or more other parameters makes it identifiable, the
parameter is identifiable conditioned on the parameters that are preset. By setting a
parameter we mean that we assign a value to it and then treat it as known, i.e. remove
it from the parameter set.

Design of Experiments


(f) Interval iden@ability and quasi-iden@ability. The values of nonidentifiable parameters often are constrained to fall in intervals. DiStefano (10) used the term interval
identifiability to describe the restriction of a parameter to a subspace by the constraints
of a problem. If the interval is small enough so that a parameter is identifiable for
practical purposes, DiStefano calls that quasi-identifiability.

Notice that (a priori) identifiability is concerned only with whether or not the observation function, and therefore the observational parameters, uniquely define the basic
parameters. It has nothing to do with actual samples or sampling errors. In contrast, a
posteriori identifiability is concerned with the estimability of parameters for particular
samples. For that reason I call it estimability and will deal with it in more detail under
estimability and optima1 sampling design.


of checking identifiability

For fairly simple problems, one can often determine identifiability by inspection of
the observation function, but as soon as the models become more complex that is
no longer possible. A number of methods available for checking identifiability are
summarized in this section. For more details see the books by Carson et al. (ll),
Godfrey (12), Jacquez (6) and Walter (9).
The methods differ for linear and nonlinear systems. Before considering that, let us
make clear the distinction between linear and nonlinear systems and linear and nonlinear parameters. For a linear system, the rates of change of the state variables are
given by linear differential equations. Such systems have the superposition or input
linearity property, which means that the response to a sum of two inputs equals the
sum of the responses to the individual inputs. In contrast, the rates of change of the
state variables of nonlinear systems are given by nonlinear differential equations, and
superposition does not hold. When applied to the parameters of a system, the terms
linear and nonlinear have entirely different meanings; they then refer to the way the
parameters appear in the solutions for the state variables or the observation functions.
Suppose x is a state variable and the solution of the differential equation is of the form
x = A,el+A,ez.


A, and A2 appear linearly and are linear parameters whereas ;1, and 2, are nonlinear
parameters. Even for linear systems, many of the parameters appear nonlinearly in the
Methods for linear systems with constant coefficients
Topologicalproperties For compartmental systems, some simple topological proper-

ties of the connection diagram should be checked first. They provide necessary but not
sufficient conditions for identifiability.
1. Input and output reachability. There must be a path from some experimental input
to each of the compartments of the mode1 and there must be a path from each
compartment to some observation site.
2. Condition on number of parameters. The number of unknown parameters must not


J. A. Jacquez

exceed a number which depends on the topology of the system; see Carson et al.

For checking parameter identifiability, three methods have received most attention.
The Laplace transform or transfer function method This method is simple in theory
and is the most widely used, although it becomes quite cumbersome with large models.
First, note that if a linear model is identifiable with some input in an experiment, it is
identifiable from impulsive inputs into the same compartments. That allows one to use
impulsive inputs in checking identifiability even if the actual input in the experiment is
not an impulse. Take Laplace transforms of the system differential equations and solve
the resulting algebraic equations for the transforms of the state variables. Then write
the Laplace transform for the observation function. That will be of the form

Here, s is the transform variable and the coefficients, 4i,r, are the observational
parameters which are functions of the basic parameters. That gives a set of nonlinear
algebraic equations in the basic parameters. The hard part is to determine which of the
basic parameters are uniquely determined by this set of nonlinear equations.
The similarity transformation method Consider a compartmental system for which
the coefficient matrix K has been subjected to a similarity transformation to give a
system with a coefficient matrix P-'KP,where P is nonsingular. Recall that under a
similarity transformation, the eigenvalues do not change. Impose on P-'KP all the
structural constraints on K and require that the response function of the system with
matrix P-'KP be the same as that of the system with matrix K.If the only P that satisfies
those requirements is the identity matrix, all parameters are globally identifiable. If
a P # I satisfies the requirements, one can work out which parameters are identifiable
and which are not.
The modal matrix method The matrix whose columns are the eigenvectors is called
the modal matrix. In this approach, one looks at the response function to see if the
eigenvalues and the components of the modal matrix are identifiable; both are, of
course, functions of the basic parameters. This method is used less often than the
previous two.
A program called PRIDE is now available which uses the transfer function approach
plus topological properties to express the coefficients from the transfer function in
terms of the cycles and paths connecting the inputs and outputs of an experiment and
uses that to test whether the parameters are globally or locally identifiable (13).
Methods for nonlinear systems

Although there is a large literature on identifiability for linear systems with constant
coefficients, less has been done on nonlinear systems. Whereas for linear systems
one can substitute impulsive inputs for the experimental inputs for the analysis of
identifiability, for nonlinear systems one must analyze the input-output experiment for
the actual inputs used. That is a drawback. On the other hand, experience shows that
frequently the introduction of nonlinearities makes a formerly nonidentifiable model
identifiable for a given experiment. Two methods are available.

Design of Experiments


Taylor series A method (14) used widely depends on expanding the observation
function in a Taylors series around t = 0 +. The coefficients of the expansion are
functions of the basic parameters and are the observational parameters. Although there
may be an infinite number of coefficients, only a finite number are independent. As
one adds coefficients from terms of higher and higher order, eventually one reaches
coefficients that are no longer independent of the preceeding ones.
Similarity transformation The method of similarity transformations
has been
extended to nonlinear systems (15) but so far there has been little experience with the
Local ident$ability at a point

It is natural to develop the theory of identifiability in terms of two levels of

parameters, the basic parameters, 0,, and the observational parameters, 4,, which are
identifiable functions of the basic parameters. For problems of low dimensionality it is
easy to generate the & explicitly as functions of the 8, and check identifiability on the
functional relations, 4i =f;(e,,...,e,,). For problems of even moderate magnitude the
algebraic work involved in finding the 4i and solving the equations may become
An important finding is that if one has initial estimates of the basic parameters one
can determine local identifiability numerically at the initial estimates directly, without
having to generate the observational parameters as explicit functions of the basic
parameters. The method works for linear and nonlinear systems, compartmental or
Furthermore, for linear systems it gives structural local identifiability. We develop the basic theory for checking identifiability at a point. There are
many similarities with the corresponding theory for the estimation of parameters. Since
we shall need the latter shortly for the discussion of estimability and optimal sampling
design, let us develop the two in parallel.
Let x be the vector of state variables. Recall that the model describing the dynamics
of the experiment is
k = F(x,B,Bu,t);

x(0) = x,,,


where 0 is a vector of basic parameters and x0 gives the initial conditions. The observation





y = G(x,xO,Bu,t) = G(t&) = G(Q).


The actual observations at point j are,

Zii = GXt,t@f 6,) = Yi(t,>+ tz/,


where cij is the error of measurement of Gi(t,$); assume it is zero mean with variance
gfj To keep things simple, we assume that there is only one observation
function and
develop the least squares theories, assuming we have fairly good initial estimates of the
parameters which we shall, for the moment, treat as though they were the correct values
for the parameters.
Let there be p basic parameters and assume we have estimates, @,...,E$. For the

parameters set at these estimates, calculate a set of values of the observation function


J. A. Jacquez

at n points in time for n>p. For small deviations in the parameters,

observation function in the parameters f&, around the known values


yj = Gj+,$,

linearize the


The superscript means the term is to be evaluated at the known values (the estimates)
of the parameters. Notice that the ej are not measurement errors, they are truncation
errors in the expansion. Furthermore, ej-+O in order (A@)as A0+0; since the ej play
no role in the theory, we drop them.
The two sums of squares are:

Se,, =



L zj-G;-+hek


Notice that yj- G; z 0, but zj- G; = tj. Next, find the least squares estimate of Aok.
Take derivatives of the sums of squares with respect to the A8, to obtain the normal
gTgA8 = 0,


for identifiability, and

grC-gA$ = grC-6 = g%-(z-G),


for estimation of parameters. Here g is the sensitivity matrix







. ..





and EC-is the diagonal matrix of the inverses of the variances of the measurement

. . .





. .


From this development, one can see that,


Design of Experimen ts


1. for an identifiability check we only need to calculate

points at the initial estimates for the Bi.We dont need
we dont want to commit resources to an experiment
estimate are not identifiable!
2. if det(gTg) = 0, the model is not locally identifiable
identifiable but not all. Then
(det(grg) = O)=(det(gTC-g)

the values of y at a series of

to do the experiment. Indeed,
if the parameters we want to

some parameters may be

= 0),


so obviously one cannot estimate parameters that are not identifiable.

This method has been programmed in a series of programs called IDENT (16).


In this paper, the term estimability is used as a general term to cover the various
issues involved in evaluating the quality of estimates of parameters, beyond the question
of (a priori) identifiability (16, 17). It includes a posteriori identifiability, estimation of
the variances of the estimates and analysis of the impact of correlations between the
There are qualitative and quantitative aspects to estimability. From the qualitative
viewpoint, it should be obvious that one must take samples at at least as many points
as there are parameters; otherwise, one cannot obtain estimates even though the
parameters are identifiable. That is usually referred to as a posteriori identifiability.
From a quantitative viewpoint, we would like estimates with small variances and with
no correlations between the estimates of the parameters. Ideally one would like to
obtain a diagonal covariance matrix, diagonal so that the correlations between the
estimates of the parameters are zero, with small diagonal entries. To do that, one can
increase the sample size, but increasing the number of samples is not enough; optimal
placement of the samples turns out to be more important. That is covered in the
next section. Unfortunately, parameter estimates are almost always correlated and
correlations between estimates of the parameters degrades their value, even when the
variances of the estimates are relatively small.

Optimal sampling schedules

Assume we have a specific model for an input-output experiment, i.e. we have a

model of a system on which we do a specific input-output experiment. For that, we
are given:
1. a prior estimate, 8*, of the p-vector of parameters 0;
2. N2p samples, i.e. measurements of the observation function, are to be taken in a
sampling interval [0,7j;
3. the variances for the measurement errors.
The problem is to pick the times of the N samples to optimize the estimation of 8*;
optimize in this case means to minimize some measure of the variances and covariances
of the estimates of 8*.


J. A. Jacquez

Optimal sampling schedules for nonlinear parameters depend on the values of the
parameters. Thus we need to know the values of the parameters to obtain an optimal
sampling schedule. Obviously, if we really knew the values of the parameters there
would be no point to doing the experiment to estimate them! Hence the need for a
prior estimate which can then be used in a sequential estimation scheme, i.e. use the
prior estimate to obtain an optimal sampling schedule and then do the experiment to
obtain a better estimate and repeat the process (18). Fortunately, optimal sampling
schedules are rarely sharply optimal; a design with points not far from the optimal
design is not far from optimal. In addition, it should be stressed that an optimal design
holds for the given model of an input-output experiment. If the model is misspecified,
it is likely that the design will not be optimal.
For introductory reviews see Refs (19, 20, 21). For more detailed presentations of
the theory of optimal sampling design see Fedorov (22) Landaw (23) and Walter and
Pronzato (24).
Terminology and some background

We start with definitions of important terms.

1. Sampling design. Any choice of points t,,...,t,,, in [0,7j is a sampling design.
2. Points of support. The points ti, ie{l,...,N} are the points of support of the design.
It has been shown that forp parameters, one needs at most p@ + 1)/2 + 1 distinct points
of support in a sampling design (22). However, experience with compartmental models
shows that optimal designs usually require only p points of support (23). Thus, if one
takes N = kp samples, where k is an integer, the optimal design places k samples at
each of the points of support.
Finally, it is worth noting and emphasizing that the points of support in an experimental design are usually far from uniformly spaced; geometric spacings often come
closer to optimal designs.
Theory of parameter estimation

The theory for parameter estimation has already been presented in Eqs (1 l)-( 19).
Let us assume the parameters are identifiable. Two complications have not been
explicitly introduced in order to keep the derivations simple. However, they can be
handled without any basic change in the theory, although with some increase in
complexity of the presentation.
1. Parameters that have to be estimated may be introduced in the observations and
not be present in the system model (see Jacquez and Perry (16)). Since the theory
for estimation is for estimation of parameters that appear in the observations, they
are included.
2. Prior information on the system may appear in additional equations of constraint.
If the equations of constraint depend on state variables, with or without the explicit
appearance of some parameters, they are part of the model equations and are
solved with the dynamical equations. If the equations of constraint are in terms of
parameters only, they are used to reduce the parameter set.
Equation (16b) is the equation for estimation of deviations around the initial estimate

Design of Experiments


of 8. If the determinant of (gTC-g) = 0, Eq (16b) have no solution. In fact, the model

is unidentifiable if the determinant of (gg) is zero.
Important points to note are as follows.
If the errors of measurement are not large one expects (z-GO) to be small and so
At? will be small, provided that the determinant of (g?-g) is not small.
We want the determinant of (gC_g) to be large, because then small changes in z
have very small effects on the estimates of 6.
If the determinant of g%g is nonzero, (gc-g)) is proportional to the covariance
matrix of the estimates of 0 and to obtain good estimates of 8we want the covariance
matrix to be small.
gTXPg is the Fisher information matrix, Z, and increasing Idecreases the covariance
Optimal sampling designs
It is obvious that the entries in (gC_g) depend on the times at which samples are

taken, i.e. on the sampling design. One can see intuitively why (g?-g) is so important;
it uses the sensitivity matrix weighted by the inverse error variances and clearly one
wants samples placed so as to increase the sensitivity of the estimates to change in the
parameters. The problem then is to choose some objective function of I = gX_g and
find the sample that optimizes this objective function. The criterion used widely is to
maximize the determinant of I. The determinant of (g%-g)) is proportional to the
volume of the ellipsoids of constant uncertainty, i.e. the confidence ellipsoids, around
the minimum of S. Thus minimizing the determinant of (g%g)-,
or maximizing the
determinant of g?g
minimizes the volumes of these ellipsoids. Such designs are
called D-optimal designs. However, other design criteria have also been used. The major
ones are given below.
D-optimal designs II is an estimate of the covariance matrix of the estimates of 8.
The determinant of II is proportional to the volumes of the confidence ellipsoids
around the minimum of the sum of squares in parameter space. So minimizing the
determinant of II minimizes the volumes of the confidence ellipsoids. That is what a
D-optimal design does. An important property of D-optimal designs is that they are
independent of the units (scales) chosen for the parameters.
A-optimal designs Minimize the sum of the diagonal elements (the trace) of II; that
is equivalent to minimizing the average variance of the estimates of the parameters.
Unfortunately, A-optimal designs are not independent of the scales used for the parameters.
C-optimal designs These minimize the trace of CII, where C is a diagonal matrix
whose entries are the inverse squares of the values of the parameters at the minimum
in S. The result is to minimize the average squared coefficient of variation, i.e.

c (at/.

C-optimal designs are also independent of the scales of the parameters.

E-optimal design Minimize the maximum eigenvalue of II. This is equivalent to
minimizing the length of the principal axis of the confidence ellipsoid in parameter
D-optimal designs are the most widely used, so it is worth examining their properties


J. A. Jacquez

in more detail. The matrix of second derivatives of G with respect to the parameters is
called the Hessian. One can show that the principal axes of the sum of squares ellipsoids
are along the eigenvectors of the Hessian and are intersected by the sum of squares
surface at distances proportional to ,/l/7;, where yi is the ith eigenvalue of the Hessian
(6). Thus it is possible for the confidence ellipsoids to be long and narrow in some
directions; that implies high correlations between estimates of some of the basic parameters. For some purposes it might be better to give up some of the volume of the
minimum ellipsoids in exchange for ellipsoids that are closer to spheres so as to decrease
the correlations between basic parameters. E-optimal designs tend to do that. Another
approach, the M-optimality of Nathanson and Saidel(25), minimizes the angle between
the ellipsoid axes and the reference axes in the space of the basic parameters. That
allows for differences between the lengths of the principal axes of the ellipsoids but by
aligning the principal axes with the parameter axes it reduces the off-diagonal terms of
the Hessian, i.e. the correlations between the estimates of the parameters.
Numerical methods

Although there is an extensive and often complicated body of theory on optimal

sampling designs (22,23), with the power of modern computers a systematic search of
the interval [0, T] provides a simple and direct approach to generating optimal sampling
designs. The method is more obvious for one observation function. On the interval
[O,T], place a lattice of N+ 1 > 3p points; there is no problem with using lo&300 or
more points. For an initial choice of p points of support, spread the p points over the
lattice and calculate the determinant of g%g; it is better to choose an initial partition
that divides the interval [0,7j in a geometrically increasing spacing rather than to divide
the interval into N equal subintervals. Starting with the first point of support do the
following. Place the ith point of support on each lattice point between the (i- 1)th and
the (i+ 1)th points of support, successively, and calculate g%-g for each of the designs
so obtained. Keep the one with the largest determinant. Do this for all p points of
support. After sweeping through all points of support on the lattice, repeat the process.
That method converges fairly rapidly.
Two programs are available that calculate D-optimal sampling designs for multiple
input and multiple output experiments, OSSMIMO (26) and OPTIM. The latter is an
extension of the IDENT programs (16). Both programs use variants of the numerical
method just described and both handle multiple inputs and multiple outputs.
OSSMIMO is written in FORTRAN whereas OPTIM is written in C.
Model distinguishability

A theoretical problem related to identifiability is concerned with constructing all

models that have different structures from a given or candidate model, but have the
same input-output response over some class of admissible inputs for a given inputoutput experiment (27-30). The idea is to find all models that could not be distinguished
by the experiment under consideration.
We do not pursue that here but look at a simpler problem that is much closer to
actual practice in the design of experiments. In an area such as pharmacokinetics or
physiological systems modeling, there are usually only a few competing models. These

Design of Experiments


are the models that are plausible in terms of what is known of the anatomical structure
and of the basic biochemical and physiological mechanisms at work in the system.
Often, there are only two main models. Thus an important issue for the experimentor
is, given that there are two or three competing models and a few experiments that can
be done, can one or more of the feasible experiments distinguish between the models,
and if more than one, which is the best? The basic idea is to compare the input-output
responses of the models for a particular experiment, and do that for all feasible
experiments. Finally, pick the experiment that gives the greatest difference between
input-output responses of the models. That is an iterative process whose basic unit of
iteration is to compare input-output responses for a particular experiment for two
An example

To illustrate the many aspects of the design of experiments that have been covered,
a simple but realistic example will now be given (31).
Many metabolites and drugs equilibrate slowly enough between blood and the
interstitial fluid in the organs so that the amount in the blood plasma acts as one
compartment and the amount in the interstitial spaces acts as another compartment.
Suppose we have such a material but we do not know whether or not it enters cells and
is metabolized there. There are two possible compartmental models for this system
which are shown in Fig. 2(a) and (b).
In Fig. 2, node 1 is the plasma compartment and node 2 is the interstitial compartment. The transfer coefficients are constants; k,,, is for excretion by way of the urine
but ko2 is the coefficient for uptake by cells and metabolic conversion to some other
material. We want to choose the system model in Fig. 2(a) if koz is zero or if it is so
small that the rate of removal by this pathway is not detectable within the errors of
measurement. On the other hand, if entry into cells is significant, we want to choose
the model in Fig. 2(b) as our system model.
The system models
For Fig. 2(a), the equations for the system model are
41 = -(&

+k*,)% +62q2,



where qi is the total amount in compartment

system model are


i. For Fig. 2(b), the equations for the

Fig. 2. Two possible compartmental



J. A. Jacquez


Fig. 3. Two experiment


41= -(kx+~2h+k2,




If we had initial conditions

on q, and q2, we could
the time courses of q, and q2.

solve these equations

to obtain

The experiment models

Now we define an experiment, experiment 1, which consists of putting a unit impulse
into compartment
1 at t = 0, i.e. an IV injection of a bolus at t = 0, and measuring the
in compartment
1. Figure 3 shows the experiment models.
The heavy arrows going into compartments
1 represent the inputs and the heavy
arrows coming out of compartments
1 represent the observations
(outputs in engineering terminology).
The equations for the experiment models are Eqs (20)-(21) and Eqs (22)-(23) plus
equations for the inputs and the observations.
The unit impulsive inputs are given by
the initial conditions they give, i.e.

4,(O)= 1.
The observation


is the concentration
y,(t) = q,

in compartment


where V, is the volume of distribution

in the plasma. Notice that here is an example of
a basic parameter,
I/,, that is introduced by the experimental
design, i.e. the observation
function. Thus the equations for the experiment model in Fig. 3(a), which is experiment
1 on the system model in Fig. 2(a), are Eqs (20))(21) plus Eqs (24)-(25). The equations
for the experiment model in Fig. 3(b), which is experiment
1 on the system model in
Fig. 2(b) are Eqs (22)-(23) plus Eqs (24)-(25).

Models of process and models of data

The equation
sets {Eqs (20), (21), (24) (25)) and {Eqs (22), (23), (24) (25)) are
models of process because they describe the basic processes going on in experiment
If we solve the equations,
we find that for both experiment
models the observation
function is of the same form

Design of Experiments



41(t)= A,e1+&2.

If we try to just fit the data with an equation of the form of Eq (26), we have a model
of data. In this case, the model of data is derived from models of process. If we did not
know the models of process and just looked at the data, over a limited range, it looks
as if it could be fitted with a polynomial in t. That too would be a model of data but
one not derived from a model of process.
Let us use the Laplace transform method. First, for the experiment model in Fig.
3(a), take Laplace transforms of Eqs (20t(21) and solve for Q,, the Laplace transform
of q,. That gives

Q, =



Thus the Laplace transform of the observation function is

Y, =

4 f, + kd f,



That gives four observational parameters:

4, = l/V
42 = WV,


43 = ko,+k,z+kz,
44 = k&i,.
The set of Eq (29) has unique solutions for V,, ko,, k,, and k,, so all of the basic
parameters are globally (uniquely) identifiable.
If we do the same for the experiment model in Fig. 3(b)

Q, =

s + (km+ k,,)


so the Laplace transform of the observation function becomes

4 VI + (km+ kdl V,

Y, =



That again gives four observational parameters

$1 = l/V







but these are functions of five basic parameters. Now only V, is uniquely identifiable,
from c$,, and none of the four basic kinetic parameters are identifiable.


J. A. Jacquez




Fig. 4. Experiment models as in Fig. 3 but with an additional compartment


The conclusion then is that if the system model in Fig. 2(b) is correct, the basic
kinetic parameters cannot be estimated because they are not identifiable by experiment
1. Can one modify the experiment to make all of the kinetic parameters of the system
model in Fig. 2(b) identifiable? Practically, one cannot sample compartment 2 or the
outflow from it. However, if the outflow from compartment 1 is all by way of the
urinary output, one can collect the urine and measure the amount excreted as a function
of time. In modeling terms, that means we add a compartment that collects the outflow
from compartment 1. The new experiment then is the same as experiment 1 with the
addition of measurement of the amount in compartment 3, as shown in Fig. 4, the
diagram for this new experiment 2.
That means the system model has another equation, the equation for q3,
and another observation function has to be added to the equations for the experiment





The Laplace transform of y, is,

I, = Q3 = ko,Q,.


Thus we have another observational parameter to add to Eqs (29) and (32). With
that change in the experimental design all of the kinetic parameters of the system model
in Fig. 2(b) become uniquely identifiable.
Model distinguishability

For experiment 1, the observational function is a double exponential decay, Eq (26),

for both system models, Fig. 2(a) and 2(b), and there is no way that experiment 1 can
distinguish between the two possible system models. However, experiment 2 provides
the additional measurement, y, = q3 and if the impulsive input into compartment 1 at
t = 0 is 1 unit of material,

f& Y2(0 = 1,
for the system model in Fig. 2(a) but the limit must be less than 1 for the system model
in Fig. 2(b). Thus, within the error of measurement of yz(t), experiment 2 can distinguish
between the two system models. So we choose to do experiment 2.
Which model?

It is important to realize that up to this point there has been no reason to do any
experiments in the laboratory. Analyses of identifiability and model distinguishability

Design of Experimen ts


are done on the experiment models, but now it is time to do a real experiment, in order
to decide which is the better model and also to determine how far out in time to take
samples in an optimal experiment design and to obtain preliminary estimates of the
parameters. Notice that the concentration in compartment 1, y,(t), follows a double
exponential decay and after some time, T, when the curve has fallen to a low level
and is fairly flat, there is little point in taking more samples. In addition, model
distinguishability depends on taking y2 out far enough so one can estimate whether or
not it approaches 1 in the limit, but y, is also a double exponential with the same
exponential terms as in y,(t) but with different coefficients. If measurement error is say
2%, one would also choose Tlarge enough to decide whether or not VI(t) is approaching
1 as t-+60.
Assume that the experiment has been done and it turns out that, as near as makes
no difference, the system model in Fig. 2(a) is correct and we have an estimate of T. If
model in Fig. 2(a) is correct, however, all parameters are identifiable from experiment
1, so why not fall back to the easier experiment, that of the experiment model in Fig.
3(a)? There is good reason not to do that! Experiment 2 gives independent estimates of
both k,, and V,; we would find that the correlations between the estimates of the
parameters would be much less for experiment 2! The better decision is to continue to
do experiment 2.
Optimal sampling schedule and estimability

Qualitative considerations of estimability tell us we need to take at least four samples

to be able to estimate the four parameters of the experiment model in Fig. 4(a). To
decrease the estimation errors, one needs to take more. Considerations of experimental
technique, e.g. how many samples can be handled without degrading the sampling
technique, would set an upper limit. Suppose we decide we can easily handle 16 samples
over the period T. Other information needed is the variance of the measurement error,
i.e. the variances of the c,, of Eq (13). Previous experience with the experimental
technique might provide estimates. If not, replicates plus the residuals from the fits in
the preliminary experiment(s) can be used to estimate the variance.
With the necessary preliminary information available, we use OPTIM or OSSMIMO
to come up with an optimal sampling design, which will be optimal for the preliminary
estimates of the parameters. That design will almost always place four samples at each
of the four points of support of the design. Technically that is usually not a practical
design because of the difficulty of taking four independent samples simultaneously.
However, optimal designs are rarely sharply optimal; a sampling design close to an
optimal one is close to optimal. So the answer is to group four sample points around
each optimal point of support, leaving enough time between successive samples so as
not to degrade the technique by hasty work. That has an additional advantage. Suppose
later work shows that there are really two peripheral compartments, one that was too
small and/or equilibrated so slowly with the plasma compartment that it was not picked
up in earlier work. Then the extra points in the design, i.e. not all on the points of
support for the optimal design based on the experiment model in Fig. 4(a), help to
obtain preliminary estimates for the enlarged model.
Finally, the experiment is run with the optimal design and the parameters are
estimated. If the estimates are somewhat different from the preliminary estimates and/or


J. A. Jacquez

if they have unacceptably large variances, repeat the process. In updating the estimates
in this sequential process, take into account all estimates obtained, using the variances
of the estimates as weights. A Bayesian approach to updating could be used.

Discussion and conclusion

Many problems in pharmacokinetics and in the study of metabolism require that

one estimate the parameters of the kinetic processes involved. The design of experiments
to do that involves formally modeling the system under investigation and the experiments that one proposes to do on the system. Identifiability of parameters, model
distinguishability and the generation of optimal sampling schedules are the keystones
of this approach. It should be stressed that checking parameter identifiability and
model distinguishability does not require that one do any experiments - those checks
are done on the experiment models. However, the generation of optimal sampling
schedules requires some preliminary estimates, for which preliminary experiments may
have to be done. After that, generation of optimal sampling schedules and running the
experiment are done iteratively to obtain the parameter estimates.
The gains from this approach to experimentation should be clear. Generally, far
fewer experiments need to be done because the experiments that are done are more
efficient. That conserves the resources required for experimentation - experiments are
costly! Furthermore, it minimizes the use of animals in experiments and that is becoming
an ever stronger consideration as the opposition mounts to the use of animals in

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