10/12/2021 – E. Loiseau – How millions of microscopic active cilia self-organize to protect our airways

Séminaire IUSTI – 10 déc. 2021 – 11h salle 250

How millions of microscopic active cilia self-organize to protect our airways

Étienne Loiseau – CINAM, Marseille

The respiratory tract is protected by mucus, a complex fluid transported along the epithelial surface by the coordinated beating of millions of microscopic cilia, hence the name of mucociliary clearance. Its impairment is associated with all severe chronic respiratory diseases. Yet, the relationship between ciliary density and the spatial scale of mucus transport, as well as the mechanisms that drive ciliary-beat orientations are much debated. Here, we show on polarized human bronchial epithelia that mucus swirls and circular orientational order of the underlying ciliary beats emerge and grow during ciliogenesis, until a macroscopic mucus transport is achieved for physiological ciliary densities. By establishing that the macroscopic ciliary-beat order is lost and recovered by removing and adding mucus, respectively, we demonstrate that cilia–mucus hydrodynamic interactions govern the collective dynamics of ciliary-beat directions. We propose a two-dimensional model that predicts a phase diagram of mucus transport in accordance with the experiments.