Glass-like dynamics in the cell and in cellular collectives

Monirosadat Sadati, Amir Nourhani, Jeffrey J. Fredberg, Nader Taheri Qazvini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Prominent fluctuations, heterogeneity, and cooperativity dominate the dynamics of the cytoskeleton as well as the dynamics of the cellular collective. Such systems are out of equilibrium, disordered, and remain poorly understood. To explain these findings, we consider a unifying mechanistic rubric that imagines these systems as comprising phases of soft condensed matter in proximity to a glass or jamming transition, with associated transitions between solid-like versus liquid-like phases. At the scale of the cytoskeleton, data suggest that intermittent dynamics, kinetic arrest, and dynamic heterogeneity represent mesoscale features of glassy protein-protein interactions that link underlying biochemical events to integrative cellular behaviors such as crawling, contraction, and remodeling. At the scale of the multicellular collective, jamming has the potential to unify diverse biological factors that previously had been considered mostly as acting separately and independently. Although a quantitative relationship between intra- and intercellular dynamics is still lacking, glassy dynamics and jamming offer insights linking the mechanobiology of cell to human physiology and pathophysiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-149
Number of pages13
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Systems Biology and Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)


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