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From Individual to Collective Behavior of Unicellular Organisms: Recent Results and Open Problems

By Chuan Xue, H. G. Othmer and R. Erban


The collective movements of unicellular organisms such as bacteria or amoeboid (crawling) cells are often modeled by partial differential equations (PDEs) that describe the time evolution of cell density. In particular, chemotaxis equations have been used to model the movement towards various kinds of extracellular cues. Well-developed analytical and numerical methods for analyzing the time-dependent and time-independent properties of solutions make this approach attractive. However, these models are often based on phenomenological descriptions of cell fluxes with no direct correspondence to individual cell processes such signal transduction and cell movement. This leads to the question of how to justify these macroscopic PDEs from microscopic descriptions of cells, and how to relate the macroscopic quantities in these PDEs to individual-level parameters. Here we summarize recent progress on this question in the context of bacterial and amoeboid chemotaxis, and formulate several open problems

Topics: General
Year: 2009
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