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How many ways a cell can move: the modes of self-propulsion of an active drop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalSoft Matter
DateSubmitted - 2020
DateAccepted/In press (current) - 26 Feb 2020


Numerous physical models have been proposed to explain how cell motility emerges from internal activity, mostly focused on how crawling motion arises from internal processes. Here we offer a classification of self-propulsion mechanisms based on general physical principles, showing that crawling is not the only way for cells to move on a substrate. We consider a thin drop of active matter on a planar substrate and fully characterize its autonomous motion for all three possible sources of driving: (i) the stresses induced in the bulk by active components, which allow in particular tractionless motion, (ii) the self-propulsion of active components at the substrate, which gives rise to crawling motion, and (iii) a net capillary force, possibly self-generated, and coupled to internal activity. We determine travelling-wave solutions to the lubrication equations as a function of a dimensionless activity parameter for each mode of motion. Numerical simulations are used to characterize the drop motion over a wide range of activity magnitudes, and explicit analytical solutions in excellent agreement with the simulations are derived in the weak-activity regime.



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