Review Article

Active matter at the interface between materials science and cell biology

  • Nature Reviews Materials 2, Article number: 17048 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/natrevmats.2017.48
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Abstract

The remarkable processes that characterize living organisms, such as motility, self-healing and reproduction, are fuelled by a continuous injection of energy at the microscale. The field of active matter focuses on understanding how the collective behaviours of internally driven components can give rise to these biological phenomena, while also striving to produce synthetic materials composed of active energy-consuming components. The synergistic approach of studying active matter in both living cells and reconstituted systems assembled from biochemical building blocks has the potential to transform our understanding of both cell biology and materials science. This methodology can provide insight into the fundamental principles that govern the dynamical behaviours of self-organizing subcellular structures, and can lead to the design of artificial materials and machines that operate away from equilibrium and can thus attain life-like properties. In this Review, we focus on active materials made of cytoskeletal components, highlighting the role of active stresses and how they drive self-organization of both cellular structures and macroscale materials, which are machines powered by nanomachines.

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Acknowledgements

Z.D. acknowledges primary support from Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Science (Grant No. DE-SC0010432TDD) for supporting research on cytoskeletal active matter. Additional support from John F. Templeton Foundation (Grant Nos 57392 and NSF-MRSEC-1420382) is acknowledged. D.N. acknowledges support from the National Science Foundation (Grant Nos PHY-0847188, PHY-1305254 and DMR-0820484).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, FAS Center for Systems Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.

    • Daniel Needleman
  2. Department of Physics, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454, USA.

    • Zvonimir Dogic
  3. Department of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA.

    • Zvonimir Dogic

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Daniel Needleman or Zvonimir Dogic.