Continuum model of cell adhesion and migration
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- Kuusela, E. & Alt, W. J. Math. Biol. (2009) 58: 135. doi:10.1007/s00285-008-0179-x
The motility of cells crawling on a substratum has its origin in a thin cell organ called lamella. We present a 2-dimensional continuum model for the lamella dynamics of a slowly migrating cell, such as a human keratinocyte. The central components of the model are the dynamics of a viscous cytoskeleton capable to produce contractile and swelling stresses, and the formation of adhesive bonds in the plasma cell membrane between the lamella cytoskeleton and adhesion sites at the substratum. We will demonstrate that a simple mechanistic model, neglecting the complicated signaling pathways and regulation processes of a living cell, is able to capture the most prominent aspects of the lamella dynamics, such as quasi-periodic protrusions and retractions of the moving tip, retrograde flow of the cytoskeleton and the related accumulation of focal adhesion complexes in the leading edge of a migrating cell. The developed modeling framework consists of a nonlinearly coupled system of hyperbolic, parabolic and ordinary differential equations for the various molecular concentrations, two elliptic equations for cytoskeleton velocity and hydrodynamic pressure in a highly viscous two-phase flow, with appropriate boundary conditions including equalities and inequalities at the moving boundary. In order to analyse this hybrid continuum model by numerical simulations for different biophysical scenarios, we use suitable finite element and finite volume schemes on a fixed triangulation in combination with an adaptive level set method describing the free boundary dynamics.