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Title: Fractal dimension to characterize interactions between blood and lymphatic endothelial cells

Spatial patterning of different cell types is crucial for tissue engineering and is characterized by the formation of sharp boundary between segregated groups of cells of different lineages. The cell−cell boundary layers, depending on the relative adhesion forces, can result in kinks in the border, similar to fingering patterns between two viscous partially miscible fluids which can be characterized by its fractal dimension. This suggests that mathematical models used to analyze the fingering patterns can be applied to cell migration data as a metric for intercellular adhesion forces. In this study, we develop a novel computational analysis method to characterize the interactions between blood endothelial cells (BECs) and lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs), which form segregated vasculature by recognizing each other through podoplanin. We observed indiscriminate mixing with LEC−LEC and BEC−BEC pairs and a sharp boundary between LEC−BEC pair, and fingering-like patterns with pseudo-LEC−BEC pairs. We found that the box counting method yields fractal dimension between 1 for sharp boundaries and 1.3 for indiscriminate mixing, and intermediate values for fingering-like boundaries. We further verify that these results are due to differential affinity by performing random walk simulations with differential attraction to nearby cells and generate similar migration pattern, confirming that higher differential attraction between different cell types result in lower fractal dimensions. We estimate the characteristic velocity and interfacial tension for our simulated and experimental data to show that the fractal dimension negatively correlates with capillary number (Ca), further indicating that the mathematical models used to study viscous fingering pattern can be used to characterize cell−cell mixing. Taken together, these results indicate that the fractal analysis of segregation boundaries can be used as a simple metric to estimate relative cell−cell adhesion forces between different cell types.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
IOP Publishing
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Physical Biology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Article No. 045004
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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