6th Annual Symposium
Physics of Cancer
Leipzig, Germany
September 7-9, 2015
Invited Talk
Unjamming and cell shape in the asthmatic airway epithelium
Jeffrey Fredberg
Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Healt, Dept. of Envirnomental Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA
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From coffee beans flowing in a chute1 to cells remodeling in a living tissue, a wide variety of particulate, close-packed, collective systems (both inert and living) have the potential to jam. The collective can sometimes flow like a fluid or can sometimes jam and rigidify like a solid. The transition between unjammed versus jammed phases remains poorly understood, however, and even defining properties and quantitative metrics of those phases remain unclear. Using a confluent layer of primary human bronchial epithelial cells relevant to the pathobiology of asthma, we show here that the jamming transition is linked directly to cell shape, thus establishing in that system a simple structural criterion for cell jamming. Surprisingly, critical scaling collapse predicts a theoretical relationship between jamming and cell-cell adhesive stresses that is opposite of that seen in inert particulate matter, but is borne out by direct experimental observations in living cells. Cell shape thus provides a rigorous but practical structural signature for classification and investigation of bronchial epithelial layer jamming in asthma, and potentially in any process in disease or development in which epithelial dynamics play a prominent role.
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