UPenn Dept of ARCH745, Nonlinear Systems Biology & Design (Sabin)
Winglam Kwan, Mark Nicol, Yohei Yamada
In a native environment cells gain stability from tensile forces which are exerted on them by the extracellular matrix and are expressed through their cytoskeleton. When stressed these tensile connections transmit contextual information throughout the cell and in so doing drive cell behavior. If there is a shift in the extracellular matrix those forces are distributed through the integrin receptors to the cytoskeleton. The resulting realignment of the actin network within the cell’s cytoplasm triggers a response from the cell. Therefore, information about connectivity can drive the condition of the cell, prompting it to respond by either growing, differentiating, moving, or dying. Just as chemical gradients in the environment stimulate behavior, so too can gradients in the organization of the extracellular matrix. The interrelationship between gradients of chemoattractants and the composition of the extracellular matrix can inform the design of nonlinear systems which have a similar dynamic relationship to their environment. Gradients of contextual triggers will spark local reactions which will reverberate through the tensile network. Our research and simulations are the beginning of a framework for considering dynamically reactive building systems.