Mechanical and Civil Engineering Seminar
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".