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Interfaces and Free Boundaries


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Volume 22, Issue 2, 2020, pp. 205–244
DOI: 10.4171/IFB/439

Published online: 2020-07-06

From individual-based mechanical models of multicellular systems to free-boundary problems

Tommaso Lorenzi[1], Philip J. Murray and Mariya Ptashnyk[2]

(1) University of St Andrews, UK
(2) Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK

In this paper we present an individual-based mechanical model that describes the dynamics of two contiguous cell populations with different proliferative and mechanical characteristics. An off-lattice modelling approach is considered whereby: (i) every cell is identified by the position of its centre; (ii) mechanical interactions between cells are described via generic nonlinear force laws; and (iii) cell proliferation is contact inhibited. We formally show that the continuum counterpart of this discrete model is given by a free-boundary problem for the cell densities. The results of the derivation demonstrate how the parameters of continuum mechanical models of multicellular systems can be related to biophysical cell properties. We prove an existence result for the free-boundary problem and construct travelling-wave solutions. Numerical simulations are performed in the case where the cellular interaction forces are described by the celebrated Johnson–Kendalli–Roberts model of elastic contact, which has been previously used to model cell-cell interactions. The results obtained indicate excellent agreement between the simulation results for the individual-based model, the numerical solutions of the corresponding free-boundary problem and the travelling-wave analysis.

Keywords: Cell mechanics, individual-based models, free-boundary problems, local existence, travelling waves, JKR model

Lorenzi Tommaso, Murray Philip, Ptashnyk Mariya: From individual-based mechanical models of multicellular systems to free-boundary problems. Interfaces Free Bound. 22 (2020), 205-244. doi: 10.4171/IFB/439