condensed matter, soft condensed matter, cell behavior
We present a continuum model of the coupling between cells and substrate that accounts for some of the observed substrate-stiffness dependence of cell properties. The cell is modeled as an elastic active gel, adapting recently developed continuum theories of active viscoelastic fluids. The coupling to the substrate enters as a boundary condition that relates the cell's deformation field to local stress gradients. In the presence of activity, the coupling to the substrate yields spatially inhomogeneous contractile stresses and deformations in the cell and can enhance polarization, breaking the cell's front-rear symmetry.
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