He described his work at the EPL symposium, “Physics In Our Times” held today (10 May) at the Fondation Del Duca de l’Institut de France, Paris. In particular, he is interested in areas such as cell traffic and motility, cell duplication and oscillations and signal transduction. He wants to know what characterises living systems as opposed to dead ones. One example is how the so-called fluctuation dissipation theorem is violated in a living system.
Much of eukaryotic cell dynamics results from the dynamical interaction of three major cell components. These are phospholipidic membranes, cytoskeletal networks and molecular motors. During his presentation, Prof. Prost gave three examples that illustrate how a quantitative description of basic biological processes can be obtained. He first discussed how molecular motors can pull phospholipidic nanotubes and how to obtain a theoretical description (without adjustable parameters) of this process - known to play an important role in eukaryotic cell traffic.
Next, he discussed cell motion. On a substrate, cells extend a thin layer, called the lamellipodium, which drags the cell forward. Using only symmetry and conservation arguments, he described the concept of “active gels” and discussed the shape and dynamics of the lamellipodium. In particular, he showed how the observed “retrograde flow” of gel naturally emerges out of the theory description.
Using the same framework, Prof. Prost also discussed how oscillations are obtained when cells are suspended in a fluid and suggested that the early stage of mitosis (cell division) is the bipolar manifestation of this same instability.
Prost says his team’s most exciting result to date has been to show that “hair cells” (the cells that detect sound in the inner ear) work with excellent precision at the verge of an oscillation instability - called a “Hopf bifurcation”. This finding explained no less than six previously unanswered questions, some dating from the 18th century.
“It is extremely difficult to drive a system so close to instability in a laboratory experiment,” explained Prost. “However, during evolution our ears have had plenty of time to drive 16 000 cells close to such instabilities! This shows how biology is interesting for physicists - evolution can drive systems under unlikely conditions that are almost inaccessible in the lab.”
Prof. Prost and colleagues have also developed a description of biological gels in which molecular motors provide “life” to these structures. “We are now in a position to raise questions about cell dynamics including cell duplication in terms of condensed matter physics,” he stated.
It is now clear that statistical physics and condensed matter physics are important for understanding biology. Prof. Prost believes that over the next 20 years we will finally be able to describe the connection between specific protein activity and global cell function in a quantitative way. “Such knowledge will have a profound impact on our understanding of pathologies such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, and hopefully help us find therapies,” he said.
Dianne Stilwell | alfa
Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top
20.04.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
New record on squeezing light to one atom: Atomic Lego guides light below one nanometer
20.04.2018 | ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy