Universal motion patterns in confluent cell monolayers

Silke Henkes, Kaja Kostanjevec, J. Martin Collinson, Rastko Sknepnek, Eric Bertin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)


Epithelial cell monolayers show remarkable long-range displacement and velocity correlations reminiscent of supercooled liquids and active nematics. Here we show that many of the observed features can be understood within the framework of active matter at high densities. In particular, we argue that uncoordinated but persistent cell motility coupled to the collective elastic modes of the cell sheet is sufficient to produce characteristic swirl-like correlations. This includes a divergent correlation length in the limit of infinite persistence time. We derive this result using both continuum active linear elasticity and a normal modes formalism, and validate analytical predictions with numerical simulations of two agent-based models of soft elastic particles and in-vitro experiments of confluent corneal epithelial cell sheets. Our analytical model is able to fit measured velocity correlation functions without any free parameters.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2019


  • cond-mat.soft
  • physics.bio-ph


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