Multicellular Systems Biology

This program uses Mathematical and Computational methods to better understand multicellular biological systems with a focus on the influence of biomechanics on tissue and organ development and disease. How the organs of the body develop and function and in particular how the underlying processes fail, is a key area of scientific research. The last decade has witnessed remarkable progress in experimental and mathematical studies of cell and tissue development with mathematical models becoming more intricate and computational power becoming ever cheaper.  This has led to the increased adoption of multicellular approaches to the mathematical modelling of the self-organization of cells to form tissues and organs, the field known as Multicellular Systems Biology.

Multicellular (or individual-based) models treat cells (or subcellular components) as discrete interacting entities and provide a natural candidate for studying the regulation of cell--level processes in organ development. There can be a one--to--one correspondence between cells in the model and the tissue, allowing tissue heterogeneities to be accurately accounted for. Additionally, subcellular, cellular and tissue level data can be incorporated into the model in a natural and straightforward manner.


  • Biomechanical Multicellular modelling of developing tissues.
  • Multiscale approaches to organ and tissue development.
  • Organ development; Tissue engineering; viral immune system interactions; and developmental diseases.


Mathematical modelling, in conjunction with biological experiments, is increasingly being recognised as an essential tool with which to unravel the complex nonlinear interactions between processes at the subcellular, cellular, and tissue scales from which organ--level function arises.  Moreover, mathematical modelling can provide insight or information that cannot be directly measured experimentally. Modelling allows the testing of experimentally derived hypotheses, by investigating how a system would behave when including or excluding specific interactions or processes. Similarly, modelling can produce experimentally testable hypotheses about how a biological system functions. Specifically, we are using multicellular modelling to understand the processes driving tissue and organ development and disease.

Program Leader

Dr James Osbourne