Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Predicting Cell Behaviour with a Mathematical Model

19.04.2016

Heidelberg physicists develop new software for the life sciences

Scientists from Heidelberg University have developed a novel mathematical model to explore cellular processes: with the corresponding software, they now are able to simulate how large collections of cells behave on given geometrical structures.


Computer simulations show that skin cell ensembles on a micropatterned substrate simulating a wound can bridge gaps of up to about 200 micrometres.

Philipp Albert

The software supports the evaluation of microscope-based observations of cell behaviour on micropatterned substrates. One example is a model for wound healing in which skin cells are required to fill a gap. Other areas of application lie in high throughput screening for medicine when a decision needs to be taken automatically on whether a certain active substance changes cell behaviour.

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schwarz and Dr. Philipp Albert work both at the Institute for Theoretical Physics and at the Bioquant Centre of Heidelberg University. Their findings were recently published in “PLOS Computational Biology”.

One of the most important foundations of the modern Life Sciences is being able to cultivate cells outside the body and to observe them with optical microscopes. In this way, cellular processes can be analysed in much more quantitative detail than in the body.

However, at the same time a problem arises. “Anyone who has ever observed biological cells under a microscope knows how unpredictable their behaviour can be. When they are on a traditional culture dish they lack ‘orientation’, unlike in their natural environment in the body.

That is why, regarding certain research issues, it is difficult to derive any regularities from their shape and movement,” explains Prof. Schwarz. In order to learn more about the natural behaviour of cells, the researchers therefore resort to methods from materials science. The substrate for microscopic study is structured in such a way that it normalises cell behaviour.

The Heidelberg physicists explain that with certain printing techniques, proteins are deposited on the substrate in geometrically well-defined areas. The cell behaviour can then be observed and evaluated with the usual microscopy techniques.

The group of Ulrich Schwarz aims at describing in mathematical terms the behaviour of biological cells on micropatterned substrates. Such models should make it possible to quantitatively predict cell behaviour for a wide range of experimental setups. For that purpose, Philipp Albert has developed a complicated computer programme which considers the essential properties of individual cells and their interaction. It can also predict how large collections of cells behave on the given geometric structures.

He explains: “Surprising new patterns often emerge from the interplay of several cells, such as streams, swirls and bridges. As in physical systems, e.g. fluids, the whole is here more than the sum of its parts. Our software package can calculate such behaviour very rapidly.” Dr Albert’s computer simulations show, for example, how skin cell ensembles can overcome gaps in a wound model up to about 200 micrometres.

Another promising application of these advances is investigated by Dr. Holger Erfle and his research group at the BioQuant Centre, namely high throughput screening of cells. Robot-controlled equipment is used to carry out automatic pharmacological or genetic tests with many different active substances. They are, for example, designed to identify new medications against viruses or for cancer treatment. The new software now enables the scientists to predict what geometries are best suited for a certain cell type. The software can also show the significance of changes in cell behaviour observed under the microscope.

The research projects by Prof. Schwarz, Dr. Albert and Dr. Erfle received European Union funding from 2011 to 2015 via the program “Micropattern-Enhanced High Throughput RNA Interference for Cell Screening” (MEHTRICS). Besides the BioQuant Centre, this consortium included research groups from Dresden, France, Switzerland and Lithuania. The total support for the projects amounted to EUR 4.4 million euros.

Contact:
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schwarz
Institute for Theoretical Physics
Phone +49 6221 54-9431
schwarz@thphys.uni-heidelberg.de

Communications and Marketing
Press Office
Phone +49 6221 54-2311
presse@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de

Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.uni-heidelberg.de

Further reports about: biological cells cellular processes substrates

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Show me your leaves - Health check for urban trees
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht Liver Cancer: Lipid Synthesis Promotes Tumor Formation
12.12.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents

12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Liver Cancer: Lipid Synthesis Promotes Tumor Formation

12.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>