Bursts of activity in collective cell migration

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


  • Oleksandr Chepizhko
  • Costanza Giampietro
  • Eleonora Mastrapasqua
  • Mehdi Nourazar
  • Miriam Ascagni
  • Michela Sugni
  • Umberto Fascio
  • Livio Leggio
  • Chiara Malinverno
  • Giorgio Scita
  • Stéphane Santucci
  • Mikko Alava
  • Stefano Zapperi
  • Caterina A M La Porta

Research units

  • University of Milano
  • Université de Lyon
  • Institute for Scientific Interchange Foundation
  • CNR-Consiglio Nazionale Delle Ricerche


Dense monolayers of living cells display intriguing relaxation dynamics, reminiscent of soft and glassy materials close to the jamming transition, and migrate collectively when space is available, as in wound healing or in cancer invasion. Here we show that collective cell migration occurs in bursts that are similar to those recorded in the propagation of cracks, fluid fronts in porous media, and ferromagnetic domain walls. In analogy with these systems, the distribution of activity bursts displays scaling laws that are universal in different cell types and for cells moving on different substrates. The main features of the invasion dynamics are quantitatively captured by a model of interacting active particles moving in a disordered landscape. Our results illustrate that collective motion of living cells is analogous to the corresponding dynamics in driven, but inanimate, systems.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11408-11413
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number41
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • Avalanches, Collagen substrate, Collective cell migration, Universality, Vascular endothelial cadherin

ID: 9103042