Cell transport in model extracellular matrices Academic Article uri icon


  • The rapid transport of cells has been shown to occur by ordered countercurrent convection. This convection can be created by mixtures of macromolecules which make up the extracellular matrix and by the degradation and aggregation products of these macromolecules. The ordered countercurrent convection is manifested in the form of structured flows and arises in isothermal systems with small concentration gradients of solutes. The flows are gravity driven but may rapidly move at angles close to the horizontal axis if they are mechanically constrained to do so. These flows have been shown to rapidly transport cells at rates ranging from 1 to 100 mm h-1, depending on the conditions of the experiment. The transport of cells is nonspecific in that various cell types (chondrocytes, fibroblasts, endothelial cells, and red blood cells) as well as inert particles of similar size (latex beads 6-microns diam) are transported at similar rates. Latex bead transport by structured flow has also been demonstrated to occur in confined spaces in the form of Teflon tubing down to 200 microns in diameter and at angles in the range of 45-90 degrees to the horizontal axis. The flows may also occur over relatively long distances for a prolonged period of time. The conditions for flow formation are simple and widespread. It is suggested that it may contribute to the forces involved in the movement of cells in the extracellular matrix in vivo especially during remodeling and embryogenesis.

publication date

  • January 1987