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Physics Colloquium - Friday, November 6th, 2009, 4:00 P.M.

E300 Math/Science Center; Refreshments at 3:30 P.M. in Room E200

>Wolfgang Losert

Department of Physics
University of Maryland
Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology
National Cancer Institute

Decision making and collective dynamics of Cells

Our focus is on ability of cells to operate collectively in a robust way, which is crucial e.g. in wound healing, immune response, or the formation of organs. Though the size, shape, and behavior of individual cells when placed by themselves under the microscope varies widely, groups of biological cells that communicate with each other (via biochemical signals and possibly physical interactions) are able to carry out complex tasks very reliably. This talk will review decision making and group behavior during cell migration in a simple model organism Dictyostelium discoideum. We will assess how information is relayed in space and time on multiple scales from the mm scale where we follow the motion of thousands of individual cells to the micron scale where we have developed a method to follow cell shape dynamics and to monitor cell protrusions. Finally, we will also assess the ability of migrating cells to make more complex decisions such as migration in the presence of obstacles such as cliffs and ridges.