School of Mathematics

Nature Communications paper by Lyuba Chumakova

The paper Microtubule organization is determined by the shape of epithelial cells answers a long-standing question in cell biology, whether internal cellular structures (microtubulae cytoskeleton) control the shape of cells during their growth, or vice versa. It shows that the latter scenario applies: the geometry of the cell drives the self-organization of the microtubulae cytoskeleton. This result stems from an interdisciplinary, multi-university collaboration between biologists from Cambridge and Sheffield, and Lyuba Chumakova, who holds a Royal Society of Edinburgh Research Fellowship in the School of Mathematics at Edinburgh. The collaborative nature of this research was vital for the result: after 2.5 years of biological lab experiments, the statement was finally confirmed after a minimal mathematical model showed that using very few rules of microtubulae dynamics can reproduce the self-organization of the cytoskeleton observed in experiments.