When cultured on flat surfaces, fibroblasts and many other cells spread to form thin lamellar sheets. Motion then occurs by extension of the sheet at the leading edge and retraction at the trailing edge. Comprehensive quantitative models of these phenomena have so far been lacking and to address this need, we have designed a three-dimensional code called Cytopede specialized for the simulation of the mechanical and signaling behavior of plated cells. Under assumptions by which the cytosol and the cytoskeleton are treated from a continuum mechanical perspective, Cytopede uses the finite element method to solve mass and momentum equations for each phase, and thus determine the time evolution of cellular models. We present the physical concepts that underlie Cytopede together with the algorithms used for their implementation. We then validate the approach by a computation of the spread of a viscous sessile droplet. Finally, to exemplify how Cytopede enables the testing of ideas about cell mechanics, we simulate a simple fibroblast model. We show how Cytopede allows computation, not only of basic characteristics of shape and velocity, but also of maps of cell thickness, cytoskeletal density, cytoskeletal flow, and substratum tractions that are readily compared with experimental data
To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.