(Re)Thinking growth of cell populations from a single-cell perspective

Frank Bruggeman, System Biology Lab, VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Exponential growth of cells is likely one of the most fundamental and well-known biological phenomena. All biologists, like me, did this experiment in their first year microbiology course. There is nothing to it. Some of you might even think, “What a dull topic!”. I disagree. Especially, when you start thinking about single cells in exponentially-growing populations. Do single cells grow exponential? Do they have to? How do you define the average cell — on which our deterministic, ODE descriptions of cell growth are based? Do bounds exist for the phenotypic heterogeneity of single cells in such populations? In this talk, I will answer such questions by showing you the associated experiment and the theory. It turns out that still much is to be learned for, perhaps, the simplest biological experiment