A three dimensional model of multicellular aggregate compression
Multicellular aggregates are an excellent model system to explore the role of tissue biomechanics, which has been demonstrated to play a crucial role in many physiological and pathological processes. In this paper, we propose a three-dimensional mechanical model and apply it to the uniaxial compression of a multicellular aggregate in a realistic biological setting. In particular, we consider an aggregate of initially spherical shape and describe both its elastic deformations and the reorganisation of the cells forming the spheroid. The latter phenomenon, understood as remodelling, is accounted for by assuming that the aggregate undergoes plastic-like distortions. The study of the compression of the spheroid, achieved by means of two parallel, compressive plates, needs the formulation of a contact problem between the living spheroid itself and the plates, and is solved with the aid of the augmented Lagrangian method. The results of the performed numerical simulations are in qualitative agreement with the biological observations reported in the literature and can also be used to estimate quantitatively some fundamental aggregate mechanical parameters.