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Issue 38, 2017
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Hydrodynamic instabilities, waves and turbulence in spreading epithelia

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We present a hydrodynamic model of spreading epithelial monolayers described as polar viscous fluids, with active contractility and traction on a substrate. The combination of both active forces generates an instability that leads to nonlinear traveling waves, which propagate in the direction of polarity with characteristic time scales that depend on contact forces. Our viscous fluid model provides a comprehensive understanding of a variety of observations on the slow dynamics of epithelial monolayers, remarkably those that seemed to be characteristic of elastic media. The model also makes simple predictions to test the non-elastic nature of the mechanical waves, and provides new insights into collective cell dynamics, explaining plithotaxis as a result of strong flow-polarity coupling, and quantifying the non-locality of force transmission. In addition, we study the nonlinear regime of waves deriving an exact map of the model into the complex Ginzburg–Landau equation, which provides a complete classification of possible nonlinear scenarios. In particular, we predict the transition to different forms of weak turbulence, which in turn could explain the chaotic dynamics often observed in epithelia.

Graphical abstract: Hydrodynamic instabilities, waves and turbulence in spreading epithelia

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Publication details

The article was received on 06 Jun 2017, accepted on 07 Aug 2017 and first published on 07 Aug 2017

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7SM01128H
Citation: Soft Matter, 2017,13, 6913-6928
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    Hydrodynamic instabilities, waves and turbulence in spreading epithelia

    C. Blanch-Mercader and J. Casademunt, Soft Matter, 2017, 13, 6913
    DOI: 10.1039/C7SM01128H

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