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Modelling and simulation of elastic cells in flow

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Coupling Geometric PDEs with Physics for Cell Morphology, Motility and Pattern Formation

Accurate measurements of cell elasticity help doctors and biologists to detect diseases and physiological changes of biological cells. An innovative new technique uses a flow scenario to measure the elasticity of large amounts of cells at a rate of 100 cells per second. The idea is to flow cells through a narrow channel which leads to deformation by shear stress and pressure gradients. A comparison of the observed cell shapes with numerical simulation results permits conclusions on the elasticity of the cell.

In my talk I will address numerical methods to simulate this scenario. In particular I will present three different modeling approaches for cells flowing through a narrow channel, where cells are modeled either as

(i) viscous fluids with surface tension to account for actomyosin contraction of the cytoskeleton, (ii) viscoelastic bodies to account for the viscoelasticity of intracellular components, (iii) fluid-filled elastic shells accounting for the elasticity of the cytoskeleton.

A phase field is used in all three approaches to represent the cell geometry which permits an easy mechanism to couple the cell geometry to additional equations for elasticity and surface tension. I will compare the obtained cell shapes with experimental and analytical results and draw conclusions on which the model is best-suited to describe biological cells in flow.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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