Insight |

Physics of living systems

Recent advances in our understanding of the physics of living systems have come from biologists and physicists working in close collaboration. This Insight celebrates this approach by showcasing research across all the length scales relevant to living systems — from molecules and cells to tissues, organisms and populations.


Reviews & Comment

  • Nature Physics | Comment

    Understanding the behaviour of almost any biological object is a fundamentally multiscale problem — a challenge that biophysicists have been increasingly embracing, building on two centuries of biophysical studies at a variety of length scales.

    • Ewa K. Paluch
  • Nature Physics | Review Article

    It may look like little more than slime, but the glycocalyx coating our cells plays a key role in cell signalling. And changes to its physical structure have been linked to cancer, triggering emergent behaviours that form the focus of this Review.

    • Joe Chin-Hun Kuo
    • , Jay G. Gandhi
    • , Roseanna N. Zia
    •  &  Matthew J. Paszek
  • Nature Physics | Perspective

    Robust and responsive, the surface of a cell is as important as its interior when it comes to mechanically regulating form and function. New techniques are shedding light on this role, and a common language to describe its properties is now needed.

    • Alba Diz-Muñoz
    • , Orion D. Weiner
    •  &  Daniel A. Fletcher
  • Nature Physics | Review Article

    The behaviour of cells and tissues can be understood in terms of emergent mesoscale states that are determined by a set of physical properties. This Review surveys experimental evidence for these states and the physics underpinning them.

    • Xavier Trepat
    •  &  Erik Sahai
  • Nature Physics | Review Article

    Evidence that ants communicate mechanically to move objects several times their size has prompted a theory that places the group near a transition between uncoordinated and coordinated motion. These findings and their implications are reviewed here.

    • Ofer Feinerman
    • , Itai Pinkoviezky
    • , Aviram Gelblum
    • , Ehud Fonio
    •  &  Nir S. Gov

Further reading

  • Nature Physics | Article

    Biofilms of rod-shaped bacteria can grow from a two-dimensional layer of founder cells into a three-dimensional structure with a vertically aligned core. Here, the physics underlying this transition is traced down to the properties of individual cells.

    • Farzan Beroz
    • , Jing Yan
    • , Yigal Meir
    • , Benedikt Sabass
    • , Howard A. Stone
    • , Bonnie L. Bassler
    •  &  Ned S. Wingreen
  • Nature Physics | News & Views

    Magnetic tweezer measurements have revealed the forces associated with a star-shaped structure responsible for moving the sperm nucleus to the centre of the egg cell following fertilization.

    • Carlos Garzon-Coral
    •  &  Jonathon Howard
  • Nature Physics | News & Views

    Cells in embryonic tissues generate coordinated forces to close small wounds rapidly without scarring. New research shows that large cell-to-cell variations in these forces are a key system feature that surprisingly speeds up wound healing.

    • M. Shane Hutson