Credit By: Medium
Biology, typically associated with images of flora, fauna, and even abstract computer models, is seldom linked to theoretical calculations. Yet, the fusion of these seemingly disparate domains is pivotal in advancing biological research. Delving into the depths of complex biological processes, even at the tiniest scales, necessitates precise computations. This is where the expertise of ISTA Professor Edouard Hannezo comes into play, employing calculations as a key to unraveling the physical underpinnings of biological systems. Through the endeavors of his adept team, fresh perspectives have emerged, illuminating the enigmatic realm of cellular movement and communication within living tissues.
A Vibrant Canvas of Insights: A Symphony of Colors and Cellular Pathways A magnificent tapestry of colors comes alive, revealing the orchestrated activation of a chemical signaling pathway (specifically, the ERK pathway) seamlessly melded with a 2D cell area simulation within a monolayer of cells. This visual spectacle emerges as the creative output of the Hannezo group at ISTA.
Charting the Unseen Terrain of Cellular Motion and Interaction: A Theoretical Framework During his Ph.D. journey, Daniel Boocock, collaborating with Hannezo and long-term partner Tsuyoshi Hirashima from the National University of Singapore, embarked on an intellectual expedition that resulted in a meticulously crafted theoretical model. Presented on July 20 through the pages of the journal PRX Life, this model adds layers to our comprehension of long-range cellular communication. It elegantly delineates the intricate interplay of mechanical forces enacted by cells and their concurrent biochemical activities.
Exploring the Fusion of Physics and Biology: The Unlikely Pair, The convergence of physics and biology, unfolds as an essential narrative in this scenario. ISTA Professor Edouard Hannezo is a beacon of this interdisciplinary fusion, flanked by recent ISTA graduate Daniel Boocock. With theoretical physics as their guiding compass, this dynamic duo delves into the intricacies of biological complexity.
A Symphony of Cellular Ripples: Unveiling the Unseen In an analogy akin to a bustling crowd at a concert, the cells in a monolayer appear stationary, yet they are anything but static. Their existence is marked by subtle movements, swirling patterns, and spontaneous, chaotic behaviors, as Hannezo explains. Just as the actions of one individual in a crowd ripple outward, cells communicate and react to each other’s mechanical influences, creating waves that traverse through the cellular landscape. These waves, remarkably, are visible through the lens of a microscope.
Unraveling the Symphony: Mechanisms of Communication As Hannezo further elucidates, cells are astoundingly attuned to mechanical forces and their chemical surroundings. The reciprocal exchange of biochemical cues and physical responses forms the intricate dance of cellular communication. This complicated interplay of biochemical activity, physical dynamics, and motion has long eluded comprehensive understanding and is now brought to light.
Predicting Patterns: From Waves to Computational Models The mesmerizing patterns of cellular communication catalyzed the team’s quest to create a theoretical framework that substantiates their prior hypotheses about cell movement. Boocock explains how their earlier efforts laid the foundation for this pursuit, unveiling the biophysical origins of the observed waves and their potential role in orchestrating collective cell migration. However, this new phase incorporated additional layers of complexity, accounting for factors like tissue transitions, inherent noise within the system, and the intricacies of 2D wave structures.
Mapping the Pathways: Insights from Computer Models Their latest computational model meticulously integrates aspects of cell mobility and tissue properties. This synergy, facilitated by Boocock and Hannezo, unravels the mechanics of cellular communication, revealing how cells move and interact. Remarkably, this model replicates the phenomena witnessed in Petri dishes, serving as a theoretical framework grounded in the laws of physics that explain cell communication.
Proving the Concept: Blending Theory with Reality To substantiate their theoretical construct, Boocock and Hannezo collaborated with biophysicist Tsuyoshi Hirashima. Their collaboration involved testing the new model using 2D monolayers of MDCK cells—a widely adopted in vitro model for biological research. As Hannezo explains, when they interfered with the chemical signaling pathway responsible for force perception and generation, the cells’ movement halted, and the communication waves ceased. Through their theoretical framework, the researchers exhibited the power to manipulate various components of this intricate system, thereby deciphering the adaptable dynamics of tissue.
Pioneering into the Future: Beyond the Horizon of Cellular Dynamics Drawing parallels with the properties of liquid crystals, biological tissues exhibit a similar duality—flowing like liquids yet organized like crystals. Boocock envisions an extension of this exploration into 3D tissues or monolayers with intricate forms, mirroring the complexity found within living organisms. Additionally, the team embarks on refining their model for applications in wound healing. Preliminary simulations have showcased how optimizing information flow can accelerate healing, prompting Hannezo’s enthusiastic contemplation of how this model could revolutionize wound healing within living organisms.