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  1. Maini, Philip K. (Ed.)
    Collective living systems regularly achieve cooperative emergent functions that individual organisms could not accomplish alone. The rafts of fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) are often studied in this context for their ability to create aggregated structures comprised entirely of their own bodies, including tether-like protrusions that facilitate exploration of and escape from flooded environments. While similar protrusions are observed in cytoskeletons and cellular aggregates, they are generally dependent on morphogens or external gradients leaving the isolated role of local interactions poorly understood. Here we demonstrate through an ant-inspired, agent-based numerical model how protrusions in ant rafts may emerge spontaneously due to local interactions. The model is comprised of a condensed structural network of agents that represents the monolayer of interconnected worker ants, which floats on the water and gives ant rafts their form. Experimentally, this layer perpetually contracts, which we capture through the pairwise contraction of all neighboring structural agents at a strain rate of d ˙ . On top of the structural layer, we model a dispersed, on-lattice layer of motile agents that represents free ants, which walk on top of the floating network. Experimentally, these self-propelled free ants walk with some mean persistence length and speed that we capturemore »through an ant-inspired phenomenological model. Local interactions occur between neighboring free ants within some radius of detection, R , and the persistence length of freely active agents is tuned through a noise parameter, η as introduced by the Vicsek model. Both R and η where fixed to match the experimental trajectories of free ants. Treadmilling of the raft occurs as agents transition between the structural and free layers in accordance with experimental observations. Ultimately, we demonstrate how phases of exploratory protrusion growth may be induced by increased ant activity as characterized by a dimensionless parameter, A . These results provide an example in which functional morphogenesis of a living system may emerge purely from local interactions at the constituent length scale, thereby providing a source of inspiration for the development of decentralized, autonomous active matter and swarm robotics.« less
  2. Maini, Philip K (Ed.)
    Experiments on tumor spheroids have shown that compressive stress from their environment can reversibly decrease tumor expansion rates and final sizes. Stress release experiments show that nonuniform anisotropic elastic stresses can be distributed throughout. The elastic stresses are maintained by structural proteins and adhesive molecules, and can be actively relaxed by a variety of biophysical processes. In this paper, we present a new continuum model to investigate how the growth-induced elastic stresses and active stress relaxation, in conjunction with cell size control feedback machinery, regulate the cell density and stress distributions within growing tumors as well as the tumor sizes in the presence of external physical confinement and gradients of growth-promoting chemical fields. We introduce an adaptive reference map that relates the current position with the reference position but adapts to the current position in the Eulerian frame (lab coordinates) via relaxation. This type of stress relaxation is similar to but simpler than the classical Maxwell model of viscoelasticity in its formulation. By fitting the model to experimental data from two independent studies of tumor spheroid growth and their cell density distributions, treating the tumors as incompressible, neo-Hookean elastic materials, we find that the rates of stress relaxation of tumormore »tissues can be comparable to volumetric growth rates. Our study provides insight on how the biophysical properties of the tumor and host microenvironment, mechanical feedback control and diffusion-limited differential growth act in concert to regulate spatial patterns of stress and growth. When the tumor is stiffer than the host, our model predicts tumors are more able to change their size and mechanical state autonomously, which may help to explain why increased tumor stiffness is an established hallmark of malignant tumors.« less
  3. Maini, Philip K. (Ed.)