The Coming Age of Quantum Biology

Image Credit: Bare Dreamer - Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Image Credit: Bare Dreamer - Flickr, CC BY 2.0

What I am Reading: Life on the edge

This week I got my hands on Life on the Edge: The Coming Age of Quantum Biology, I have been waiting to read this book after seeing Jim Al-Khalilis' Ted Talk: Quantum Biology Might Explain Life’s Biggest Questions. Quantum biology is a brand new way to look at living matter. I am excited to be looking into Quantum biology but I am still not far into the book, I hope to finish by the end of the month and post a brief summary on this blog.

The Complexity of Living Matter

Starting this book has sent me down the rabbit hole, investigating the complexity of living matter. One thing that has really got me captivated is the collective intelligence of active matter. If you have ever seen a swarming flock of starlings or a migrating school of fish, this is a great example of active matter. A similar actions goes on in the body when cells transmit information collectively in order to move. Biologists are working to understand how these groups self-organize. A fascinating introduction to the world of active matter is this recent article in the journal Science on collective cell durotaxis.

This paper looks at how cells migrate towards an area of stiffness on a large scale. It was shown that when cells work together they are able to respond to variations in stiffness in a more efficient way than isolated cells. Essentially- Cells apply a force to its environment that allows it to measure the surrounding stiffness, then the cells interact with each other to transmit this information collectively in order to move. What is fascinating is that multicellular clusters exhibited migration even if isolated constituent cells did not. 

More to Explore

Ingber DE. 2008. Tensegrity-based mechanosensing from macro to micro. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology.

Ingber, D. E., Wang, N., & Stamenović, D. (2014). Tensegrity, cellular biophysics, and the mechanics of living systems. Reports on Progress in Physics.

Thompson, W. R., Scott, A., Loghmani, M. T., Ward, S. R., & Warden, S. J. (2016). Understanding Mechanobiology: Physical Therapists as a Force in Mechanotherapy and Musculoskeletal Regenerative Rehabilitation. Physical Therapy.

Sunyer, R., Conte, V., Escribano, J., Elosegui-Artola, A., Labernadie, A., Valon, L., . . . Trepat, X. (2016). Collective cell durotaxis emerges from long-range intercellular force transmission. Science.