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You are here: Home / Seminars / Colloquium / Living Droplets Get to Work

Living Droplets Get to Work

Eric Dufresne (ETH Zürich, CH)
When Jun 27, 2022
from 11:00 to 12:00
Where Salle des Thèses
Attendees Eric Dufresne
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Mixtures of oil and water separate into two very different phases.  On the other hand, aqueous mixtures of two polymers can separate into nearly identical liquid phases, each with more 90% water.  Similar liquids have recently been found to coexist within living cells, where they are thought to play an essential biological role, compartmentalizing and controlling chemical reactions. 

In this talk, I will introduce one of these liquid phases, whose droplets are called stress granules.  Adapting tools from statistical physics, we infer attractive interactions of stress granules with microtubules, a cytoskeletal filament.  We validate this finding with a simplified in vitro system, and introduce a thermodynamic model that captures the essential physics.  These findings suggest an overlooked mechanical role for liquid phases within the cell.

Further in vitro experiments show that these phases are remarkably efficient at localizing chemical reactions.  When driven far from equilibrium, concentration fields around microscopic droplets spontaneously break symmetry and create stunning fluid motion, characterized by persistent cell-like motility and long-range interactions.  Coupling chemical reactions to phase separation is a promising new class of active matter, with close ties to the physiology of living cells.

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