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Mechanical and Civil Engineering Seminar

Thursday, February 13, 2020
11:00am to 12:00pm
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Gates-Thomas 135
Fluctuations in the Life of a Cell: Maintaining Order Amidst Disorder
Vikram Deshpande, Professor, Department of Materials Engineering, University of Cambridge,

Living cells evade thermodynamic decay aided by the exchange of nutrients with their environment. They thus are quintessential examples of out-of-equilibrium systems but nevertheless maintain a homeostatic state over a timescale of hours to days. However, these nutrient exchanges also fuel large non-thermal fluctuations of cells and we use these observations to motivate a statistical thermodynamic theory for the homeostatic equilibrium of adherent cells. Numerous, sometimes counterintuitive observations, of cell behaviour can be rationalised using this formalism and we shall discuss phenomena where cells attain a specific type of order by maximising their overall disorder. The two examples we shall focus on are: (i) "contact guidance"- the widely-known phenomenon of alignment of single cells induced by anisotropic environmental features and (ii) alignment of cells via "durotaxis".

For more information, please contact Carolina Oseguera by phone at (626) 395-4271 or by email at [email protected]caltech.edu.