MicroMotility: State of the art, recent accomplishments and perspectives on the mathematical modeling of bio-motility at microscopic scales

Daniele Agostinelli, Roberto Cerbino, Juan C. Del Alamo, Antonio DeSimone*, Stephanie Höhn, Cristian Micheletti, Giovanni Noselli, Eran Sharon, Julia Yeomans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Mathematical modeling and quantitative study of biological motility (in particular, of motility at microscopic scales) is producing new biophysical insight and is offering opportunities for new discoveries at the level of both fundamental science and technology. These range from the explanation of how complex behavior at the level of a single organism emerges from body architecture, to the understanding of collective phenomena in groups of organisms and tissues, and of how these forms of swarm intelligence can be controlled and harnessed in engineering applications, to the elucidation of processes of fundamental biological relevance at the cellular and sub-cellular level. In this paper, some of the most exciting new developments in the fields of locomotion of unicellular organisms, of soft adhesive locomotion across scales, of the study of pore translocation properties of knotted DNA, of the development of synthetic active solid sheets, of the mechanics of the unjamming transition in dense cell collectives, of the mechanics of cell sheet folding in volvocalean algae, and of the self-propulsion of topological defects in active matter are discussed. For each of these topics, we provide a brief state of the art, an example of recent achievements, and some directions for future research.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)230-252
Number of pages23
JournalMathematics In Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
ADS, DA and GN acknowledge the support of the European Research Council (AdG-340685-MicroMotility). RC acknowledges support from Regione Lombardia and CARIPLO foundation, Grant No. 2016-0998. JCDA would like to acknowledge support from NIH grant 5R01GM084227 and NSF grant 1706571.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 the Author(s), licensee AIMS Press.


  • Active matter
  • Adhesive locomotion
  • Cell motility
  • Cell sheet folding
  • Knotted DNA
  • Topological defects
  • Unicellular swimmers
  • Unjamming transition


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