Institute of High Performance Computing


Powerding Discoveries!



Fluid Dynamics (FD)


Biomechanical Processes of Cell Migration and Deformation

Biomechanical Processes of Cell Migration and Deformation

The Biophysics Team is focusing on multiscale modeling and simulation of the biomechanical processes of cell migration and deformation. By developing computational models of the physical processes taking place at length scales ranging from proteins involved in the remodeling of the cytoskeleton to cells squeezing through a capillary to tissues undergoing growth and differentiation, the team hopes to understand how differences in the mechanical properties of normal and diseased cells arise and whether they may influence diagnosis.

For example, we have developed physically realistic simulations of the migration of an aggregate of red cells in a narrow capillary, where the mechanics of the plasma flow and cell membranes are realistically captured (Figure 1). A multiscale approach allows for the simulation of diseased cells, which have different mechanical properties resulting from aberrant genetic regulation of their cytoskeleton. Thus, their migratory properties can then be studied to see if there are differences from those of normal cells. An important scenario where this can be applied to is cancer metastasis. Cancer cells can break away from a tumor, penetrate into the circulatory and lymphatic systems and grow in a distant part of the body (Figure 2). To do so, cancer cells have to degrade the proteins of the extracellular matrix, migrate through it, deform and squeeze through the endothelial layer of the capillaries before getting carried over large distances through the bloodstream. After traveling down the bloodstream, it will adhere to the endothelium, squeeze through it, and escape from the capillaries to proliferate to form a metastasis at a new site. The team aims to model the deformation and migration of cells during this process.

These modeling and simulation efforts require the multidisciplinary expertise of physicists, biologists, applied mathematicians, and computational scientists.

Computational modeling of the migration of red cells in a narrow capillary.

Steps in cancer metastasis.


Back to Research Highlight

This page is last updated at: 30-NOV-2010