Cell Migration in 1D and 2D Nanofiber Microenvironments

Horacio M. Estabridis, Aniket Jana, Amrinder Nain, David J. Odde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Understanding how cells migrate in fibrous environments is important in wound healing, immune function, and cancer progression. A key question is how fiber orientation and network geometry influence cell movement. Here we describe a quantitative, modeling-based approach toward identifying the mechanisms by which cells migrate in fibrous geometries having well controlled orientation. Specifically, U251 glioblastoma cells were seeded onto non-electrospinning Spinneret based tunable engineering parameters fiber substrates that consist of networks of suspended 400 nm diameter nanofibers. Cells were classified based on the local fiber geometry and cell migration dynamics observed by light microscopy. Cells were found in three distinct geometries: adhering two a single fiber, adhering to two parallel fibers, and adhering to a network of orthogonal fibers. Cells adhering to a single fiber or two parallel fibers can only move in one dimension along the fiber axis, whereas cells on a network of orthogonal fibers can move in two dimensions. We found that cells move faster and more persistently in 1D geometries than in 2D, with cell migration being faster on parallel fibers than on single fibers. To explain these behaviors mechanistically, we simulated cell migration in the three different geometries using a motor-clutch based model for cell traction forces. Using nearly identical parameter sets for each of the three cases, we found that the simulated cells naturally replicated the reduced migration in 2D relative to 1D geometries. In addition, the modestly faster 1D migration on parallel fibers relative to single fibers was captured using a correspondingly modest increase in the number of clutches to reflect increased surface area of adhesion on parallel fibers. Overall, the integrated modeling and experimental analysis shows that cell migration in response to varying fibrous geometries can be explained by a simple mechanical readout of geometry via a motor-clutch mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)392-403
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Biomedical Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding was supported by National Institute of Health (Award IDs: ID0E6WAG5782, ID0EH6AG5783).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, The Author(s).


  • Displacement
  • Glioblastoma
  • Migration
  • Parameterization
  • Persistent random walk
  • Position
  • Random walk
  • Simulation


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