Active gels: Where polymer physics meets cytoskeletal dynamics

Tanniemola B. Liverpool*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The cytoskeleton provides eukaryotic cells with mechanical support and helps them to perform their biological functions. It is predominantly composed of a network of semiflexible polar protein filaments. In addition, there are many accessory proteins that bind to these filaments, regulate their assembly, link them to organelles and provide the motors that either move the organelles along the filaments or move the filaments themselves. A natural approach to such a multiple particle system is the study of its collective excitations. I review some recent work on the theoretical description of the emergence of a number of particular collective motile behaviours from the interactions between different elements of the cytoskeleton. In order to do this, close analogies have been made to the study of driven soft condensed matter systems. However, it emerges naturally that a description of these soft active motile systems gives rise to new types of collective phenomena not seen in conventional soft systems. I discuss the implications of these results and perspectives for the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3335-3355
Number of pages21
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number1849
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2006


  • Cytoskeleton
  • Mechanics
  • Physics
  • Self-organization


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