Discrete and continuous models for tissue growth and shrinkage

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The incorporation of domain growth into stochastic models of biological processes is of increasing interest to mathematical modellers and biologists alike. In many situations, especially in developmental biology, the growth of the underlying tissue domain plays an important role in the redistribution of particles (be they cells or molecules) which may move and react atop the domain. Although such processes have largely been modelled using deterministic, continuum models there is an increasing appetite for individual-based stochastic models which can capture the fine details of the biological movement processes which are being elucidated by modern experimental techniques, and also incorporate the inherent stochasticity of such systems.

In this work we study a simple stochastic model of domain growth. From a basic version of this model, Hywood et al. (2013) were able to derive a Fokker–Plank equation (FPE) (in this case an advection–diffusion partial differential equation on a growing domain) which describes the evolution of the probability density of some tracer particles on the domain. We extend their work so that a variety of different domain growth mechanisms can be incorporated and demonstrate a good agreement between the mean tracer density and the solution of the FPE in each case. In addition we incorporate domain shrinkage (via element death) into our individual-level model and demonstrate that we are able to derive coefficients for the FPE in this case as well. For situations in which the drift and diffusion coefficients are not readily available we introduce a numerical coefficient estimation approach and demonstrate the accuracy of this approach by comparing it with situations in which an analytical solution is obtainable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-48
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Early online date7 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2014


  • domain growth, tissue shrinkage, cell migration, generating functions


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