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The cell as a liquid motor

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Living cells, just as muscles, exert forces on their surroundings.
Although the molecules involved are the same in muscles and nonmuscle
cells, their organisation is very different : crystalline sarcomeres in
the former, disordered in the latter ; solid-like in the former and
liquid-like in the latter.

However, we show that key motor properties such as the maximum speed or the maximum load a muscle or cell can move arise from similar mechanical phenomena in both muscle and cell. Using comparisons of experiments and a rheological model’s predictions, we are able to describe and quantify the energy usage of the cell when pulling on its environment, and to explain its amazing versatility and resilience.

These results have appeared in PNAS. For more information, see here.