Cell migration, i.e., the active movement of living cells through the extracellular matrix (ECM), is essential for various physiological and pathological processes, e.g., embryonic growth, wound healing, inflammatory response, angiogenesis, and tumor metastasis. Despite this outstanding importance, however, the detailed processes involved are not fully understood. Therefore, we aim to establish a comprehensive 3D model enabling the study of individual and collective cell migration with a specific focus on the influence of physical factors such as matrix stiffness and interstitial flow. For this purpose, novel experimental and computational models and methods are developed and combined. This combination is essential for two reasons. First, experimental data are required to identify relevant phenomena to be considered in the computational model (CM), deduce realistic parameters, and validate the chosen approach. Second, the CM is needed to improve experimental design, interpret data obtained from the experimental model (EM), and test hypotheses in instances where experiments are not feasible. Due to this strong interconnection, CM and EM are developed in close cooperation. This necessity is the driving force for this proposal that will form a unique combination of experimental and computational strengths.
This project is a cooperation with Prof. Roger Kamm of MITMECHE, the department of mechanical engineering at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology/ Cambridge.