Integrative cell and tissue dynamics

Xavier Trepat | Group Leader / ICREA Research Professor
Dobryna Julia Valeria Zalvidea | Senior Researcher
Juan Francisco Abenza Martínez | Postdoctoral Researcher
Manuel Gómez González | Postdoctoral Researcher
Anna Labernadie | Postdoctoral Researcher
Andrea Malandrino | Postdoctoral Researcher
Jeroen Almer Johannes Middelbeek | Postdoctoral Researcher
Raimon Sunyer Borrell | Postdoctoral Researcher
Léo Florent Alexandre Valon | Postdoctoral Researcher
Ernest Latorre Ibars | PhD Student
Carlos Pérez González | PhD Student
Pilar Rodríguez Franco | PhD Student
Marina Uroz Marimon | PhD Student
Natalia Castro Morán | Laboratory Technician
Ariadna Marin Llaurado | Masters Student



Map of the physical forces exerted by cells during wound healing. Cells are labelled in blue, forces are shown in red and yellow, and the wound is the central black region.

The ability of eukaryotic cells to migrate within living organisms underlies a wide range of phenomena in health and disease.

When properly regulated, cell migration enables morphogenesis, host defense and tissue healing. When regulation fails, however, cell migration mediates devastating pathologies such as cancer, vascular disease and chronic inflammation. Our research focuses on understanding the fundamental biophysical mechanisms underlying migration both at the single cell level and at the tissue level.

Making cellular forces visible

To study cell and tissue dynamics we develop new technologies physical forces at the cell-cell and cell-matrix interface. By combining these technologies with computational analysis of cell shape and velocity we obtain a full experimental characterization of epithelial dynamics during tissue growth, wound healing, and cancer cell invasion.

Mechanical waves and collective cell guidance

Our new tools led to the discovery of a mechanical wave -we called “X-wave”- that propagates through expanding cell sheets. This mechanical wave is a natural candidate to trigger mechanotransduction pathways during wound healing, morphogenesis, and collective cell invasion in cancer. We also discovered a new mechanism -we called plithotaxis- by which cells align their shape and migration velocity to minimize intercellular shear stresses.


Our lab has developed techniques to simultaneously map cell velocities, cytoskeletal structure, intercellular stresses, and cell-substrate tractions (from top to bottom)

Microfabrication and wound healing

Using microfabrication technologies, we designed new ways to decipher the mechanisms of wound healing. By doing so we uncovered a new understanding of how cells move and work together to close a gap in a tissue. We showed that a new mechanism applies in which cells assemble supracellular-contractile arcs that compress the tissue under the wound. By combining experiments and computational modeling, we showed that contractions arising from these arcs make the wound heal in a quicker and more robust way. In addition we developed new assays to show that epithelial skin cells can build “suspended bridges” to seal gaps in the absence of extracellular matrix.


Cells are liquids – but behave like solids

Scientists at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) have revealed that, counter to previous understanding, the living cells in our bodies behave like solids rather than the liquids they are made of.

How cells cope with stress and strain

A study by the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) reveals how cells withstand breakage during the constant changes in shape and volume experienced in most biological processes.

Xavier Trepat winner of the 10th Banc Sabadell Award for Biomedical Research

IBEC group leader and ICREA research professor Xavier Trepat is this year’s winner of the Banc Sabadell Award for Biomedical Research for his work on understanding the fundamental biophysical mechanisms underlying cell interaction and communication.

A new mechanism in cell communication that promotes cancer metastasis

At a press conference at the Obra Social “la Caixa”’s Palau Macaya earlier today, Xavier Trepat, group leader at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), Enric Banda, director of the department of Science and Environment of the Obra Social ”la Caixa”, and Josep Samitier, director of IBEC, described a study published in Nature Cell Biology which sheds new light on how to control metastasis.

A major step towards repairing the spinal cord

Researchers at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia and their collaborators reveal that they’re a step closer to optimizing cells able to guide regeneration of the spine

‘Fracking’ found in living tissues

In an article published in the journal Nature Materials, researchers at the IBEC and the UPC describe their discovery that ‘fracking’takes place in the body at a cellular level.

Wounds heal using a cellular ‘tug-of-war’

Researchers at IBEC reveal in a Nature Communications paper some surprising mechanics that drive epithelial gap closure in the absence of underlying layers.

Ramon Margalef Prize for former IBEC PhD student

Xavier Serra Picamal, formerly a PhD student in IBEC’s Integrative Cell and Tissue Dynamics group, was awarded a prestigious Ramon Margalef Prize for the best paper derived from a doctoral thesis at a ceremony at the UB last night.

“Los científicos descubren cómo las células del cuerpo humano curan las heridas”

Today’s news about the Integrative Cell and Tissue Dynamics group’s paper in Nature Physics has been covered in La Vanguardia.

IBEC group uncovers new mechanism for wound healing 


When we think of wound healing, we normally think of wounds to our skin. But wounds happen inside the body in all sorts of tissues and organs, and can have implications in many chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma. Wounds also favour cancer progression by providing a physical and chemical environment that promotes the invasion of malignant cells. Now, a group at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) has found a new way to decipher the mechanisms of wound healing, and by doing so has uncovered a new understanding of how cells move and work together to close a gap in a tissue.

“El físico que innova en biología” 


Integrative cell and tissue dynamics group leader Xavier Trepat is profiled in El Mundo’s ‘Innovadores’ supplement today.

“El consejo europeo de investigación otorga dos nuevas distinciones a Cataluña” 


The news about Xavier Trepat’s Proof of Concept grant from the ERC appears in La Vanguardia today.

“Las células humanas construyen puentes colgantes para cicatrizar las heridas”

This week’s press release about the Integrative Cell and Tissue Dynamics group’s work published in Nature Materials has appeared online in La Vanguardia, ABC and El Diario.

A double dose of ERC success for IBEC researchers

The Integrative Cell and Tissue Dynamics group starts the year with good news from the European Research Council – they’ve been awarded both a new Consolidator Grant and a Proof of Concept award.

Skin forms ‘suspension bridges’ for wound healing

Results from IBEC researchers and their collaborators will pave the way for better and faster wound healing, as well opening new avenues for tissue engineering of skin

IBEC research on a journal cover again

The October cover of Current Opinion in Cell Biology (the reference opinion journal in cell biology, with impact factor 12) features research by IBEC’s Pere Roca and Xavier Trepat, who together with Raimon Sunyer from the UB have published a review paper in the issue, “Mechanical guidance of cell migration: lessons from chemotaxis”.

IBEC paper on the cover of Nature Materials

The latest cover of Nature Materials was designed by IBEC PhD student Xavier Serra and shows a real tissue segmented computationally to give the impression of a Gaudinian trencadís.

“La física ‘guía’ a las células”

Integrative Cell and Tissue Dynamics group leader Xavier Trepat and his recent paper in Nature Cell Biology are the subject of an article in El Périodico today.

Unexpected discovery about the ways cells move could boost understanding of complex diseases

A new discovery about how cells move inside the body may provide scientists with crucial information about disease mechanisms such as the spread of cancer or the constriction of airways caused by asthma. Researchers at IBEC and Harvard School of Public Health have found that epithelial cells—the type that form a barrier between the inside and the outside of the body, such as skin cells—move in a group, propelled by forces both from within and from nearby cells to fill any spaces they encounter.

“Las células juegan al «pilla-pilla» en su desarrollo embrionario”

Monday’s news about the Nature Cell Biology paper ‘Chase-and-run between adjacent cell populations promotes directional collective migration’ was covered in several science and general news sites and magazines, including La Razón.

Cells play ‘tag’ to determine direction of movement

Researchers at IBEC, the University of Barcelona and their collaborators have found that cells in our bodies, when moving collectively, carry out something similar to a game of ‘tag’ to coordinate their movement in a particular direction.

Scientists discover a new type of wave in living tissues

Researchers have shed new light on how the cells in our bodies collectively migrate, a critical process in positive events such as embryonic development and wound healing, but which is also integral to the development of cancer.

“Una nueva técnica de control de las microheridas epiteliales”

The Integrative Cell and Tissue Dynamics group’s recent paper published in PNAS was covered in Diario Medico.

Plithotaxis: how crowds of cells find their way

First measurements of forces driving collective cell migration unveil new principle in biology

We’re made of glass, say scientists

People can be brittle, transparent, shattered, or have a heart of glass. Now these attributes seem all the more appropriate following a discovery by researchers that migrating cells in our bodies behave in a remarkably similar way to glass when it is heated and cooled.

Researcher at IBEC publishes in Nature Physics

An article by Dr. Xavier Trepat, senior researcher of IBEC´s Cellular and respiratory biomechanics group and the Department of Physiology Sciences of the University of Barcelona, contributes for the first time an experimental answer to the question of how cells move during biological processes as diverse as the development, metastasis, or regeneration of tissues.

Press coverage elsewhere

Cells flow like glass, study finds. Harvard Science Foundation

How do cells move: Cooperative forces boost collective mobility of cells. Science Daily

Cells guided on their journey. Nature Physics

Disorderly conduct. Harvard Medical School Focus

How growing cells move together. Harvard Science Foundation

A stretch in cells. Nature

More than lip service. Nature

In Catalan / Spanish:

“Xavier Trepat, investigador principal del Laboratori de Dinàmica Cel·lular i del Teixit de l’IBEC”. Destacamus

Estamos hechos de vidrio. El Mundo

L’observador. RTVE, Spanish National Radio

Europa premia vuit joves investigadors de Catalunya. Avui

Com actuen les forces físiques durant la migració cel·lular? Comunicacions UB

Journal covers



EU-funded projects
GENESFORCEMOTION Physical Forces Driving Collective Cell Migration: from Genes to Mechanism ERC-StG Xavier Trepat
MICROGRADIENTPAGE Micro Gradient Polyacrylamide Gels for High Throughput Electrophoresis Analysis ERC-PoC Xavier Trepat
National projects
El mecanoma de la adhesión epitelial: mecanismos de detección, resistencia y transmisión de fuerzas intercelulares I+D-Investigación fundamental no orientada Xavier Trepat


Przybyla, L., Lakins, J. N., Sunyer, R., Trepat, X., Weaver, V. M., (2016). Monitoring developmental force distributions in reconstituted embryonic epithelia Methods 94, 101-113

Casares, L., Vincent, R., Zalvidea, D., Campillo, N., Navajas, D., Arroyo, M., Trepat, X., (2015). Hydraulic fracture during epithelial stretching Nature Materials Nature Publishing Group 143, 343-351

Bazellières, Elsa, Conte, Vito, Elosegui-Artola, Alberto, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Bintanel-Morcillo, María, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Muñoz, José J., Sales-Pardo, Marta, Guimerà, Roger, Trepat, Xavier, (2015). Control of cell-cell forces and collective cell dynamics by the intercellular adhesome Nature Cell Biology 174, 409-420

Ravasio, Andrea, Cheddadi, Ibrahim, Chen, Tianchi, Pereira, Telmo, Ong, Hui Ting, Bertocchi, Cristina, Brugues, Agusti, Jacinto, Antonio, Kabla, Alexandre J., Toyama, Yusuke, Trepat, Xavier, Gov, Nir, Neves de Almeida, Luis, Ladoux, Benoit, (2015). Gap geometry dictates epithelial closure efficiency Nature Communications 6, 7683

Vedula, Sri Ram Krishna, Peyret, Grégoire, Cheddadi, Ibrahim, Chen, Tianchi, Brugués, Agustí, Hirata, Hiroaki, Lopez-Menendez, Horacio, Toyama, Yusuke, Neves de Almeida, Luis, Trepat, Xavier, Lim, Chwee Teck, Ladoux, Benoit, (2015). Mechanics of epithelial closure over non-adherent environments Nature Communications 6, 6111

Kosmalska, A. J., Casares, L., Elosegui-Artola, A., Thottacherry, J. J., Moreno-Vicente, R., González-Tarragó, V., Del Pozo, M. Á, Mayor, S., Arroyo, M., Navajas, D., Trepat, X., Gauthier, N. C., Roca-Cusachs, P., (2015). Physical principles of membrane remodelling during cell mechanoadaptation Nature Communications 6, 7292

Vincent, Romaric, Bazellières, Elsa, Pérez-González, Carlos, Uroz, Marina, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Trepat, Xavier, (2015). Active tensile modulus of an epithelial monolayer Physical Review Letters 11524, 248103

Lucantonio, Alessandro, Noselli, Giovanni, Trepat, Xavier, DeSimone, Antonio, Arroyo, Marino, (2015). Hydraulic fracture and toughening of a brittle layer bonded to a hydrogel Physical Review Letters 11518, 188105

García, S., Sunyer, R., Olivares, A., Noailly, J., Atencia, J., Trepat, X., (2015). Generation of stable orthogonal gradients of chemical concentration and substrate stiffness in a microfluidic device Lab on a Chip 1512, 2606-2614

Brask, J. B., Singla-Buxarrais, G., Uroz, M., Vincent, R., Trepat, X., (2015). Compressed sensing traction force microscopy Acta Biomaterialia 26, 286-294

Reginensi, Diego, Carulla, Patricia, Nocentini, Sara, Seira, Oscar, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Torres-Espín, Abel, Matamoros-Angles, Andreu, Gavín, Rosalina, Moreno-Flores, María Teresa, Wandosell, Francisco, Samitier, Josep, Trepat, Xavier, Navarro, Xavier, del Río, José Antonio, (2015). Increased migration of olfactory ensheathing cells secreting the Nogo receptor ectodomain over inhibitory substrates and lesioned spinal cord Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences Springer Basel 7214, 2719-2737

Vizoso, Miguel, Puig, Marta, Carmona, F. Javier, Maqueda, Maria, Velásquez, Adriana, Gomez, Antonio, Labernadie, Anna, Lugo, Roberto, Gabasa, Marta, Rigat-Brugarolas, Luis G., Trepat, Xavier, Ramírez, Jose, Reguart, Noemí, Moran, Sebastian, Vidal, Enrique, Perera, Alexandre, Esteller, Manel, Alcaraz, Jordi, (2015). Aberrant DNA methylation in Non Small Cell Lung Cancer associated fibroblasts Carcinogenesis 3212, 1453-1463

Mrkonji, Garcia-Elias, A., Pardo-Pastor, C., Bazellières, E., Trepat, X., Vriens, J., Ghosh, D., Voets, T., Vicente, R., Valverde, M. A., (2015). TRPV4 participates in the establishment of trailing adhesions and directional persistence of migrating cells Pflugers Archiv European Journal of Physiology 46710, 2107-2119

Zaritsky, Assaf, Welf, Erik S., Tseng, Yun-Yu, Angeles Rabadán, M., Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Trepat, Xavier, Danuser, Gaudenz, (2015). Seeds of locally aligned motion and stress coordinate a collective cell migration Biophysical Journal 10912, 2492-2500

Perrault, Cecile, Brugues, Agusti, Bazellieres, Elsa, Ricco, Pierre, Lacroix, Damien, Trepat, Xavier, (2015). Traction forces of endothelial cells under slow shear flow Biophysical Journal 1098, 1533-1536

Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Conte, Vito, Sunyer, Raimon, Muñoz, José J., Trepat, Xavier, (2015). Mapping forces and kinematics during collective cell migration Academic Press 125, 309-330

Vedula, S. R. K., Hirata, H., Nai, M. H., Brugués, A., Toyama, Y., Trepat, X., Lim, C. T., Ladoux, B., (2014). Epithelial bridges maintain tissue integrity during collective cell migration Nature Materials 131, 87-96

Elosegui-Artola, A., Bazellières, E., Allen, M. D., Andreu, I., Oria, R., Sunyer, R., Gomm, J. J., Marshall, J. F., Jones, J. L., Trepat, X., Roca-Cusachs, P., (2014). Rigidity sensing and adaptation through regulation of integrin types Nature Materials 136, 631-637

Brugués, A., Anon, E., Conte, V., Veldhuis, J. H., Gupta, M., Colombelli, J., Muñoz, J. J., Brodland, G. W., Ladoux, B., Trepat, X., (2014). Forces driving epithelial wound healing Nature Physics 109, 683–690

Vedula, Sri Ram Krishna, Ravasio, Andrea, Anon, Ester, Chen, Tianchi, Peyret, G., Ashraf, Mohammed, Ladoux, Benoit, (2014). Microfabricated environments to study collective cell behaviors Academic Press 120, 235-252

Kim, Jae Hun, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Tambe, Dhananjay T., Zhou, Enhua H., Park, Chan Young, Sadati, Monirosadat, Park, Jin-Ah, Krishnan, Ramaswamy, Gweon, Bomi, Millet, Emil, Butler, James P., Trepat, Xavier, Fredberg, Jeffrey J., (2013). Propulsion and navigation within the advancing monolayer sheet Nature Materials 129, 856-863

Theveneau, E., Steventon, B., Scarpa, E., Garcia, S., Trepat, X., Streit, A., Mayor, R., (2013). Chase-and-run between adjacent cell populations promotes directional collective migration Nature Cell Biology 157, 763-772

Roca-Cusachs, P., Sunyer, R., Trepat, X., (2013). Mechanical guidance of cell migration: lessons from chemotaxis Current Opinion in Cell Biology 255, 543-549

Chen, Zaozao, Lessey, Elizabeth, Berginski, Matthew E., Cao, Li, Li, Jonathan, Trepat, Xavier, Itano, Michelle, Gomez, Shawn M., Kapustina, Maryna, Huang, Cai, Burridge, Keith, Truskey, George, Jacobson, Ken, (2013). Gleevec, an Abl family inhibitor, produces a profound change in cell shape and migration PLoS ONE 81, e52233

Tambe, D. T., Croutelle, U., Trepat, X., Park, C. Y., Kim, J. H., Millet, E., Butler, J. P., Fredberg, J. J., (2013). Monolayer stress microscopy: Limitations, artifacts, and accuracy of recovered intercellular stresses PLoS ONE 82, e55172

Muñoz, J. J., Conte, V., Asadipour, N., Miodownik, M., (2013). A truss element for modelling reversible softening in living tissues Mechanics Research Communications 49, 44-49

Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Conte, Vito, Vincent, Romaric, Anon, Ester, Tambe, Dhananjay T., Bazellieres, Elsa, Butler, James P., Fredberg, Jeffrey J., Trepat, Xavier, (2012). Mechanical waves during tissue expansion Nature Physics Nature Publishing Group 88, 628-634

Anon, Ester, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Hersen, Pascal, Gauthier, Nils C., Sheetz, Michael P., Trepat, Xavier, Ladoux, Benoît, (2012). Cell crawling mediates collective cell migration to close undamaged epithelial gaps Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 10927, 10891-10896

Nocentini, S., Reginensi, D., Garcia, S., Carulla, P., Moreno-Flores, Wandosell, F., Trepat, X., Bribian, A., Del Rí, (2012). Myelin-associated proteins block the migration of olfactory ensheathing cells: an in vitro study using single-cell tracking and traction force microscopy Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 6910, 1689-1703

Conte, Vito, Ulrich, Florian, Baum, Buzz, Muñoz, Jose, Veldhuis, Jim, Brodland, Wayne, Miodownik, Mark, (2012). A biomechanical analysis of ventral furrow formation in the Drosophila Melanogaster Embryo PLoS ONE Public Library of Science 74, e34473

Trepat, Xavier, Chen, Zaozao, Jacobson, Ken, (2012). Cell Migration John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2, 2369–2392

Trepat, X., (2011). Forcing tumor arrest Physics 4, 85

Tambe, Dhananjay T., Corey Hardin, C., Angelini, Thomas E., Rajendran, Kavitha, Park, Chan Young, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Zhou, Enhua H., Zaman, Muhammad H., Butler, James P., Weitz, David A., Fredberg, Jeffrey J., Trepat, X., (2011). Collective cell guidance by cooperative intercellular forces Nature Materials 106, 469-475

Trepat, X., Fredberg, J. J., (2011). Plithotaxis and emergent dynamics in collective cellular migration Trends in Cell Biology 2111, 638-646

Angelini, Thomas E., Hannezo, Edouard, Trepat, Xavier, Marquez, Manuel, Fredberg, Jeffrey J., Weitz, David A., (2011). Glass-like dynamics of collective cell migration Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10812, 4714-4719

Krishnan, Ramaswamy, Klumpers, Darinka D., Park, Chan Y., Rajendran, Kavitha, Trepat, Xavier, van Bezu, Jan, van Hinsbergh, Victor W. M., Carman, Christopher V., Brain, Joseph D., Fredberg, Jeffrey J., Butler, James P., van Nieuw Amerongen, Geerten P., (2011). Substrate stiffening promotes endothelial monolayer disruption through enhanced physical forces American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology 3001, C146-C154


  • Soft Lithography
  • Micro/Nano fabrication
  • Cell stretching
  • Live Confocal Microcopy
  • Magnetic Tweezers
  • Magnetic Twisting Cytometry
  • Monolayer stress microscopy
  • Traction microscopy


  • Julien Colombelli
    Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Barcelona
  • Eduard Batlle
    Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Barcelona
  • Roger Guimerà
    Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona
  • Roberto Mayor
    University College London (UK)
  • Erik Sahai
    Cancer Research (UK)
  • Joaquim Gea
    Hospital del Mar, Barcelona
  • Benoit Ladoux
    Université Paris 7, France
  • Jim Butler
    Harvard University
  • Prof. J. J. Fredberg
    Physiology Program, School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, USA

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