Rule-based simulation of multi-cellular biological systems-a review of modeling techniques

Minki Hwang, Marc Garbey, Scott A. Berceli, Roger Tran-Son-Tay

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Emergent behaviors of multi-cellular biological systems (MCBS) result from the behaviors of each individual cells and their interactions with other cells and with the environment. Modeling MCBS requires incorporating these complex interactions among the individual cells and the environment. Modeling approaches for MCBS can be grouped into two categories: continuum models and cell-based models. Continuum models usually take the form of partial differential equations, and the model equations provide insight into the relationship among the components in the system. Cell-based models simulate each individual cell behavior and interactions among them enabling the observation of the emergent system behavior. This review focuses on the cell-based models of MCBS, and especially, the technical aspect of the rule-based simulation method for MCBS is reviewed. How to implement the cell behaviors and the interactions with other cells and with the environment into the computational domain is discussed. The cell behaviors reviewed in this paper are division, migration, apoptosis/necrosis, and differentiation. The environmental factors such as extracellular matrix, chemicals, microvasculature, and forces are also discussed. Application examples of these cell behaviors and interactions are presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-294
Number of pages10
JournalCellular and Molecular Bioengineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Agent-based modeling
  • Cellular automata
  • Individual-based modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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