Roman Belousov, PhD
Research Officer
Minecraft-ing our way into studying cell sorting

Poissonian Cellular Potts Models Reveal Nonequilibrium Kinetics of Cell Sorting

R. Belousov (@ribelousov), S. Savino, P. Moghe (@MoghePrachiti), T. Hiiragi, L. Rondoni, and A. Erzberger (@ErzbergerGroup) | Open Access by CC BY 4.0

Our recent PRL publication, which describes a new framework revealing the role of dissipative timescales and nonequilibrium thermodynamics in shaping complex biological structures, has been spotlighted in EMBL Communications! The collective properties of active systems depend not only on the accessible energy states, but also on the transient dynamics. A new framework for dynamical discrete-state systems–a Poissonian extension of the Cellular Potts model widely used in cancer research and development biology–now permits studying thermodynamic and kinetic aspects of biological tissues.

Minecraft-ing our way into studying cell sorting

Cellular Potts models are broadly applied across developmental biology and cancer research. We overcome limitations of the traditional approach, which reinterprets a modified Metropolis sampling as ad hoc dynamics, by introducing a physical timescale through Poissonian kinetics and by applying principles of stochastic thermodynamics to separate thermal and relaxation effects from athermal noise and nonconservative forces. Our method accurately describes cell-sorting dynamics in mouse-embryo development and identifies the distinct contributions of nonequilibrium processes, e.g., cell growth and active fluctuations.