The objective of this project is to advance our understanding of amoeboid cell motility by a combined experimental and theoretical approach. Amoeboid cell motility is essential for a wide range of biological processes including wound healing, embryonic morphogenesis, and cancer metastasis. It is based on localized deformations of the cell membrane called pseudopodia. Pseudopodia are formed by coordinated actions of the actin cytoskeleton, a complex biopolymer network at the inner side of the plasma membrane. Its dynamics is controlled by a signalling network that integrates intracellular information as well as external receptor cues. A common model organism to study this type of locomotion is the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum.
The aim of our project is to develop a novel mathematical description of amoeboid motility. It will be based on a hierarchical model involving a generalization of Poisson cluster / Hawkes processes, a special type of self-exciting stochastic processes. We envision a framework based on state-of-the-art techniques of data assimilation that allows for the integration of new and more detailed experimental data that is continuously being generated as the field evolves. In particular, to inform the model, we will also generate new time-laps microscopy data. A special strength of the project is the close collaboration between experimental and theoretical PhD students.