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G I TAYLOR LECTURE - Fluctuations in the life of a cell: maintaining order amidst disorder

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Living cells evade thermodynamic decay aided by the exchange of nutrients with their environment. They thus are quintessential examples of out-of-equilibrium systems but nevertheless maintain a homeostatic state over a timescale of hours to days. However, these nutrient exchanges also fuel large non-thermal fluctuations of cells and we use this observation to motivate a statistical thermodynamic theory for the homeostatic equilibrium of adherent cells. Numerous, sometimes counterintuitive observations, of cell behaviour can be rationalised in the context and we shall discuss a few examples. For instance, “contact guidance”- the widely-known phenomenon of cell alignment induced by anisotropic environmental features and an essential first step in the organization of cells to form tissues will be presented as an example whereby cells attain a specific type of order by maximising their overall disorder.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Philosophical Society series.

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