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A surface finite element method for computational modelling of cell blebbing

by   Björn Stinner, et al.
University of Warwick

Cell blebs are protrusions of the cell membrane and can be instrumental for cell migration. We derive a continuum model for the mechanical and geometrical aspects of the onset of blebbing in terms of a force balance. It is abstract and flexible in that it allows for amending force contributions related to membrane tension or the presence of linker molecules between membrane and cell cortex. The deforming membrane and all forces are expressed by means of a parametrisation over a stationary reference surface. A variational formulation is presented and analysed for well-posedness. For this purpose, we derive a semi-discrete scheme based on the surface finite element method. We provide a convergence result and estimates of the error due to the spatial discretisation. Furthermore, we present a computational framework where specific models can be implemented and later on conveniently amended if desired, using a domain specific language implemented in Python. While the high level program control can be done within the Python scripting environment, the actual computationally expensive step of evolving the solution over time is carried out by binding to an efficient software backend. Cell membrane geometries given in terms of a parametrisation or obtained from image data can be accounted for. A couple of numerical simulation results illustrate the approach.


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