The Biophysics of Cell Migration: Biasing Cell Motion with Feynman Ratchets

David Caballero, Subhas C. Kundu, Rui L. Reis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


ABSTRACT The concepts and frameworks of soft matter physics and the laws of thermodynamics can be used to describe relevant developmental, physiologic, and pathologic events in which directed cell migration is involved, such as in cancer. Typically, this directionality has been associated with the presence of soluble long-range gradients of a chemoattractant, synergizing with many other guidance cues to direct the motion of cells. In particular, physical inputs have been shown to strongly influence cell locomotion. However, this type of cue has been less explored despite the importance in biology. In this paper, we describe recent in vitro works at the interface between physics and biology, showing how the motion of cells can be directed by using gradient-free environments with repeated local asymmetries. This rectification of cell migration, from random to directed, is a process reminiscent of the Feynman ratchet; therefore, this framework can be used to explain the mechanism behind directed cell motion.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalThe Biophysicist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 9 2020
Externally publishedYes


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