For important biological functions such as wound healing, embryonic development, and cancer tumorogenesis, cells must initially rearrange and move over relatively large distances, like a liquid. Subsequently, these same tissues must undergo buckling and support shear stresses, like a solid. Our work suggests that biological tissues can accommodate these disparate requirements because the tissues are close to glass or jamming transition. This is important because most existing studies of disease focus on single-cell motility, but in glassy tissues the dominant contributions to cell migration come from collective effects and constraints imposed by neighbors. I will discuss a new theoretical framework for predicting rates of cell migration in epithelial (skin) cell layers, and explain how similar models predict surface tension in tissues and cell shape changes that generate left-right asymmetry in embryos. I will also discuss our current work to predict how cancer cells migrate through dense tissues and understand how active cell processes (such as cell polarization) alter the physics of glasses.
Faculty Host: Robert Behringer.
Refreshments will be served after the event in room 128.