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Speaker: Roeland Merks, Mathematical Institute and Institute for Biology Leiden,  Universiteit Leiden,  

Summary: To form patterns in vivo or in vitro, cells must carefully coordinate their behaviour. Here I will present mathematical modeling approaches for the collective behaviour of endothelial cells during the development of blood vessels (angiogenesis). I will first briefly discuss mechanisms involving cell-cell communication through diffusing signals. Then I will discuss dynamical mathematical models of cells and the extracellular matrix (ECM), and show how these models help us explain the response of individual cells to the mechanics of the ECM, as well as the collective behaviour of cells during angiogenesis. Recently, detailed measurements and new mathematical models of the kinetics of focal adhesions (the macromolecular mechanosensitive assemblies by which cells interact with the ECM) have become available. In our ongoing work we are including these kinetic descriptions of focal adhesions in our models. I will sketch how this approach allows us to mechanistically predict changes in cell shape and in collective cell behaviour from changes in focal adhesion kinetics, e.g., due to genetic knockouts or pharmacological treatment. Altogether, our models help explain how local, cell-ECM interactions assist in coordinating cell behaviour during multicellular patterning.