The process of cell adhesion and spreading on the extracellular matrix (ECM) protein layer is mediated by the interaction of cell receptors and ECM ligands [1]. Receptors diffuse along the cell membrane surface and interact with ligands in ECM to form bonds. Cells spread and the adhesion zone grows as bond formation at the adhesion front increases to a critical level. This process involves coupling of reaction-diffusion and mechanical contact between cells and ECM. In this study, a novel numerical algorithm is developed to implement this coupling into the finite element method for modeling the process of cell adhesion and spreading. By taking the mass diffusion and the user-defined gap conductance features provided in a commercial FEM code, Abaqus [2], the process has been solved in an integrated and fully coupled manner. Preliminary results have been obtained from the simulation of cell spreading on a rigid substrate. The influence of glycocalyx layer (present at cell surface) on the adhesion development has also been incorporated into the modeling.

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