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Data from: A unified rheological model for cells and cellularised materials

Cite this dataset

Bonfanti, Alessandra et al. (2020). Data from: A unified rheological model for cells and cellularised materials [Dataset]. Dryad.


The mechanical response of single cells and tissues exhibits a broad distribution of time scales that gives often rise to a distinctive power-law rheology. Such complex behaviour cannot be easily captured by traditional rheological approaches, making material characterisation and predictive modelling very challenging. Here, we present a novel model combining conventional viscoelastic elements with fractional calculus that successfully captures the macroscopic relaxation response of epithelial monolayers. The parameters extracted from the fitting of the relaxation modulus allow prediction of the response of the same material to slow stretch and creep, indicating that the model captured intrinsic material properties. Two characteristic times, derived from the model parameters, delimit different regimes in the materials response. We compared the response of tissues with the behaviour of single cells as well as intra and extra-cellular components, and linked the power-law behaviour of the epithelium to the dynamics of the cell cortex. Such a unified model for the mechanical response of biological materials provides a novel and robust mathematical approach to consistently analyze experimental data and uncover similarities and differences in reported behaviour across experimental methods and research groups. It also sets the foundations for more accurate computational models of tissues mechanics.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: BB/M002578

National Science Foundation, Award: BB/M003280