Physical Cell

The molecular components of many living systems have now been identified, but we still have a limited understanding of the complex and dynamic organisational principles that underpin life processes. This is due to the difficulties of studying responsive, stochastic, multi-component, far-from-equilibrium systems like cells and tissues. This research theme aims to tackle new, fundamental problems in cell and tissue physics, focusing on problems at the scales from “molecules to cells” and “cells to tissues”.

Molecules to cells: Research explores the processes by which bio-molecular interactions, guided by genetic information, generate mechanical forces that alter cell architecture, and, conversely, the mechanisms by which cells sense and react to changes in mechanics. This will require an understanding of the design principles in living systems that permit reliable cell behaviour to arise from stochastic events at the molecular scale. As an example, the structure of the extracellular environment and the cytoplasmic/cortical actin cytoskeleton affects spindle morphogenesis, while tension generated by the spindle across individual kinetochores leads to an internal cell signal that results in global changes in the shape and mechanical properties of the entire cell, driving cytokinesis.

Cells to tissues: Research studies how events within individual cells give rise to changes at the level of entire tissues. This is particularly relevant to understanding how changes in the form and position of individual cells are integrated at the level of a tissue to give rise to the gross topological changes that accompany animal development. During gastrulation, for example, concerted changes in shape and position of individual cells drive changes in the form and topology of the entire embryo.

Researchers involved in this research theme are drawn from a number of different departments. The Cytoskeleton group is interested in using multidisciplinary approaches to study the cytoskeleton. Information about members and meetings can be found at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/systems-biology/research-themes/cytoskel/index


Systems Biology interacts with Biological Physics group in the Department of Physics, and has strong collaborations with the University of Cambridge Physics of Medicine group.

Page last modified on 21 feb 11 16:20

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