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Emergence of metachronal waves in cilia arrays

Metachronal waves in cilia arrays
Propulsion by cilia is a fascinating and universal mechanism in biological organisms to generate fluid motion on the cellular level. Cilia are hair-like organelles, which are found in many different tissues and many uni- and multi-cellular organisms. Assembled in large fields, cilia beat neither randomly nor completely synchronously -- instead they display self-organization in the form of metachronal waves (MCWs). The main questions are how the individual cilia interact with the flow field generated by their neighbors and synchronize their beats for the metachronal wave to emerge, and how the properties of the metachronal wave are determined by the geometrical arrangement of the cilia, like cilia spacing and beat direction. We address these issues by large-scale computer simulations of a mesoscopic model of two-dimensional cilia arrays in a three-dimensional fluid medium. MCW strongly increase both propulsion velocity and efficiency -- compared to cilia all beating in phase. This can be a vital advantage for ciliated organisms, and may be interesting to guide biological experiments as well as the design of efficient microfluidic devices and artificial microswimmers.

Theory of Soft Matter and Biophysics:
J. Elgeti and G. Gompper

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