Theory of Living Matter Group

The theory of living matter group studies the physics of cells, tissues and organisms: How does the cellular machinery that segregates chromosomes during cell division work? How can dividing cells deform and ultimately split? How do the cells in our bodies give shape to organs? How can cells tell left from right? What are the forces and torques involved, how are they generated, and how are they organized across scales?

To shed light on these questions, we develop analytical and numerical techniques for deciphering the physics of life. We based at the Institute for Applied Physics, opens an external URL in a new window of TU Wien, opens an external URL in a new window where we are part of the research focus on Biophysics, opens an external URL in a new window. Beyond that, we maintain active collaborations with leading experimental Labs from Vienna, in particular the and around the world.

We have openings for PhD, opens an external URL in a new window, Master, and Project students! Get in touch!

Research areas

Towards a predictive theory for cytoskeletal Networks

Much of our current understanding of the physics of the cytoskeleton - the structure that allows cells to change and maintain their shapes, and to move - comes from phenomenological theories that capture its behavior in terms of a few material properties such as viscosities elasticities and active stresses. How these properties are set by microscale processes is often less well understood. We seek to bridge this gap by deriving a theory for the large length and time scale physics of cytoskeletal materials based on microscopic interaction rules that can be measured in the lab.

scientific illustration shows cytoskeletal Networks

© Fürthauer et al, Annual Reviews in Condensed Matter Physics (2022)

cytoskeletal Networks

Synchronization phenomena in living materials

Molecular scale motors and the structures that they actuate undergo a mechano-chemical duty-cycle that allows them to transform chemical energy into mechanical work. We seek to understand the impact of this periodicity on large scale phenomena. How can cilia synchronize their beat patterns to from metachronal waves? Can molecular motors synchronize their stepping? What are the large scale consequences of theses effects?

scientific illustration of Synchronization phenomena in living materials

© Sebastian Fürthauer

Synchronization phenomena in living materials

Spindle Ultra-Structures and the Physics of cell division

Mitotic and Meiotic spindles are the structures that position and segregate chromosomes as cells divide and multiply. Their correct functioning is a requirement for life, and spindle malfunctions underly many diseases. We seek to understand how spindles work by using physics to integrate data from light microscopy - which gives dynamic temporally resolved information, but is spatially coarse - and electron tomography, which gives highly spatially resolved snapshots of spindle structures, but no dynamic information.

scientific illustration shows Tomographic recnostruction of a mitotic spindle in C. elegans.

© Sebastian Fürthauer

Tomographic reconstruction of a mitotic spindle in C. elegans.

Funding

The Theory of Living Matter Group is supported through the Vienna Research Groups for Young Investigators, opens an external URL in a new window program through grant number VRG20-002.