Cell collisions reveal a new type of wave

Researchers at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) have observed, for the first time, mechanical waves that form after collisions between cellular tissues.

After a collision, cells are pushed and deformed into waves that travel at a speed of three millimeters a day. This unexpected behavior defies what we know about cellular dynamics, and could be relevant to understand embryonic development or metastasis.

Mechanical waves – such as seismic waves, sound, or waves in the sea – are a phenomenon easily explained by the laws of physics: when two particles collide, a wave travels through the surrounding material.