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The Cellular ‘Mosh Pit’

Published on 19 April 2019

Research into the collective behaviour of cells led by Dr Rastko Sknepnek of the Mathematical & Computational Biology Research Cluster is shedding light on processes such as embryo development, wound healing and cancer development

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"Whenever there’s a collection of a large number of entities with their own source of energy – an ‘active system’ - collectively, they all behave in a specific way, whether that’s rock fans in the mosh pit at a concert, a flock of geese or, in the case of our research, a group of cells," explained Dr Sknepnek, who is working on this project with Professor Kees Weijer of the School of Life Sciences.

Collaborating with colleagues at the University of Aberdeen, Dr Sknepnek and Professor Weijer have developed the Active Vertex Model (AVM), a software application which simulates the collective behaviour of cells, allowing in-depth study of how cells move when they are part of an active system.

"We are using physics to increase the understanding of biological processes," said Dr Sknepnek, who will also use the AVM to study collective behaviour on curved surfaces.

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“We are hoping to answer fundamental questions about the mechanics of cancer cells and solve the mystery of how they group together and escape into the bloodstream." ”

Dr Rastko Sknepnek

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Story category Research