Computational Particle Mechanics

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 85–96 | Cite as

An agent-based and FE approach to simulate cell jamming and collective motion in epithelial layers

  • Ismael González-Valverde
  • José Manuel García-AznarEmail author


The collective cell motion in epithelial layers is still poorly understood, despite this phenomenon being fundamental to explain several biological processes. Indeed, it has been experimentally observed that epithelial cells can behave either as a fluid or as a solid in the tissue. The transition between both states is related to cell–cell adhesions and cell morphology. In fact, cell motility can be limited by the interaction with its neighboring cells. Moreover, cells can even enter in a frozen state, and in that case, the system behaves as a solid. However, this state is reversible under certain circumstances, and cells may return to a fluidized state. This phenomenon is known as cell jamming. Here, we propose a hybrid approach that couples a discrete agent-based model and a continuum finite element-based model to simulate cell dynamics and cell jamming in epithelial monolayers. Our hybrid approach is able to simulate cell motion individually, but it also reproduces the mechanical properties at tissue level that emerge from cell–cell interactions. This study helps to understand how cell–cell interactions regulate the cell jamming phenomenon and provides a deeper insight into the role of the passive mechanics in collective cell motion.


Finite element method Tissue mechanics Hybrid model Cell mechanics 



This research was supported by the European Research Council (ERC) through Project (ERC-2012-StG 306571) and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (DPI2015-64221-C2-1-R). We would like to acknowledge open-source projects that were used in this research: deal.II library [24] for FE analysis, CGAL library [25] for geometrical representation, Seaborn [26] for data analysis and Paraview [27] for data representation.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

40571_2018_199_MOESM1_ESM.mp4 (10 mb)
S1 Video Collective cell motion for different values of epsilon.
40571_2018_199_MOESM2_ESM.mp4 (4.9 mb)
S2 Video Collective motion generates heterogeneity in the monolayer.


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Copyright information

© OWZ 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical Engineering, Aragon Institute of Engineering Research (I3A)University of ZaragozaZaragozaSpain

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