A Mathematical Modelling Study of Chemotactic Dynamics in Cell Cultures: The Impact of Spatio-temporal Heterogeneity

Bull Math Biol. 2023 Sep 8;85(10):98. doi: 10.1007/s11538-023-01194-9.


As motivated by studies of cellular motility driven by spatiotemporal chemotactic gradients in microdevices, we develop a framework for constructing approximate analytical solutions for the location, speed and cellular densities for cell chemotaxis waves in heterogeneous fields of chemoattractant from the underlying partial differential equation models. In particular, such chemotactic waves are not in general translationally invariant travelling waves, but possess a spatial variation that evolves in time, and may even oscillate back and forth in time, according to the details of the chemotactic gradients. The analytical framework exploits the observation that unbiased cellular diffusive flux is typically small compared to chemotactic fluxes and is first developed and validated for a range of exemplar scenarios. The framework is subsequently applied to more complex models considering the chemoattractant dynamics under more general settings, potentially including those of relevance for representing pathophysiology scenarios in microdevice studies. In particular, even though solutions cannot be constructed in all cases, a wide variety of scenarios can be considered analytically, firstly providing global insight into the important mechanisms and features of cell motility in complex spatiotemporal fields of chemoattractant. Such analytical solutions also provide a means of rapid evaluation of model predictions, with the prospect of application in computationally demanding investigations relating theoretical models and experimental observation, such as Bayesian parameter estimation.

Keywords: Cell culture; Glioblastoma cell progression; Heterogeneous stimuli; Method of characteristics; Microfluidics; Perturbation theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Chemotactic Factors
  • Mathematical Concepts*
  • Models, Biological*


  • Chemotactic Factors