Frustration Drives Flocks of Cancer Cells

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Date: January 20, 2022
Time: 3:45 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Location: Zoom
Category: Seminar

Speaker: Professor Ajay Gopinathan

Department of Physics

Director, I-BioSTeP: NIH G-RISE Graduate Training Program
Director, NSF-CREST
Center for Cellular and Biomolecular Machines
University of California, Merced

 Abstract: Flocks of birds and schools of fish are delightful and awe-inspiring examples of collective motion that we see in nature, where groups of individuals, each possessing only limited, local information, nevertheless come together and display coordinated motion. This phenomenon also extends to much smaller scales, as in migrating clusters of cells that mediate physiological processes such as embryonic development, wound healing, and cancer metastasis. The collective, co-ordinated motion of cells allows for emergent behaviors unavailable to single cells that are critical for proper function. In this talk, I shall describe our work on modeling such phenomena in cancer cell clusters, highlighting how frustration can arise at the group level because of heterogeneity in behavior among individual cells in the cluster. I shall show how this frustration can be resolved leading to new collective phases of motion that are experimentally observed in malignant lymphocyte clusters and functionally important – enabling robust chemotaxis and “load sharing” among cells. 

Biography: Professor Gopinathan is a Professor and currently Chair of the Department of Physics at the University of California, Merced (UCM). He is also a Director of the NIH-funded G-RISE (T32) graduate training program and of the NSF-funded CREST Center for Cellular and Biomolecular Machines (CCBM) at UCM. His educational background includes an integrated Masters in Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He obtained his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago, working on various soft condensed matter systems including sheets, colloids, and polymers, followed by a postdoctoral stint at UCLA and UCSB working on protein biopolymer dynamics. He then joined UCM, a brand new research university that had just opened, as one of the first physicists on campus. His group uses theoretical and computational methods to explore the basic physics underlying a variety of biological transport processes ranging in scale from molecular motor transport to the collective motility of cells and organisms. He is a recipient of the 21st Century Science Initiative Award from the James S. McDonnell Foundation, a Scialog Fellowship from the Moore Foundation and Research Corporation, and the George E. Brown Award from UC MEXUS. He was recently elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and to the Chair line of the Division of Biological Physics (DBIO) of the APS.


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Takeshi Sakamoto


January 2022