University of Cambridge > > DAMTP Statistical Physics and Soft Matter Seminar > Metachronal coordination in cilia carpets

Metachronal coordination in cilia carpets

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Camille Scalliet.

Motile cilia are hair-like extensions of biological cells that beat periodically like a whip. Collections of cilia on the surface of microorganisms or human airways beat in a coordinated fashion as a traveling wave—similar to a Mexican wave in a soccer stadium—to facilitate efficient fluid transport.

This emblematic example of synchronization of noisy biological oscillators attracted attention from physicists and mathematicians alike, yet some important questions remain open: How does the shape of the cilia beat determine the direction of metachronal waves? And what is the impact of active fluctuations?

Using a multi-scale modeling framework based on a measured cilia beat pattern, we predict that many waves are linearly stable to small perturbations, but a single dexioplectic wave has predominant basin-of-attraction. Similar to a “dynamic’’ Mermin-Wagner theorem, relaxation times diverge with system size, which rules out global order in infinite systems; instead, we observe local synchronization in the presence of active noise, providing an intriguing link to the statistical physics of the celebrated Kuramoto model.

This talk is part of the DAMTP Statistical Physics and Soft Matter Seminar series.

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