University of Dundee

New general theory of collective cell migration

16 Mar 2020

A new theory on collective cell migration has been published in Nature Communications this week. This collaborative work from Rastko Sknepnek, a Senior Lecturer in Physics based in Life Sciences and Science and Engineering in the University, Silke Henkes from the University of Bristol and Eric Bertin from Universite Grenoble Alpes provides new details on this process which is important in embryonic development, organ regeneration and wound healing.

The actions of a collective of cells has been found to be quite different from those of a single cell. The paper focusses on studying and modelling the dynamics in confluent cell monolayers which Rastko explains if further detail, "Cells in in-vitro epithelial monolayers show remarkable correlations of their migrating velocities over distances of ten or more cell sizes. These correlations, observed in several cell lines, closely resemble the behaviour of supercooled liquids, making these systems suitable to model within the framework of physics of active matter systems. In this work, we apply methods of physics of active matter to show that observed correlations can be described using a simple model of soft, self-propelled particles. This opens an interesting possibility that certain aspects of collective epithelial cell migration are insensitive to molecular details and can be explained using a simple mechanistic picture." 

The Nature Communications paper is out now.

Image: Velocity fields in simulated cell sheets - SPV model simulation at τ = 200, cell outlines in white.

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