Do cells know physics? From universal cellular micromechanics to peculiar walking strategies


Wednesday, December 19, 2012, 4:00pm


Geo Museum, 24 Oxford Street, Haller Hall, Rm. 102, Cambridge, MA

Bartosz Grzybowski (Northwestern University - Dept. of Chemical & Biological Engineering) 

One of the greatest mysteries of life is how a collection of molecules enclosed by a molecular sac self-organizes into a complex system capable of maintaining structural integrity, sensing the environment, propelling itself, self-replicating, and more. In my talk I will illustrate how a combination of cell biology and physics can offer some unique insights into the static organization and dynamic behaviors of cells. Accordingly, the talk will progess from describing the static-mechanical cellular properties to the dynamic processes that underlie cells’ ability to move -- whereas cell micromechanics appears to be conserved across different cell types, the migration strategies differ markedly. The case in point are cancerous cells which, akin to animal predators, can navigate human body in an optimal and thermodynamically most efficient fashion. Such walking strategies are ultimately controlled by the complex signaling networks within the cell -- at the end of my talk I will show how these networks can be "reprogrammed" to exhibit motility patterns ranging from diffusive, through Levy-walking, to ballistic. I will also speculate on the possibility of recreating similar behaviors in artificial chemical systems.

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