Margherita Botticelli (she/her)

Ph.D. student


Margherita graduated from the Sapienza University of Rome with a BSc in Mathematics. She completed her last year of the BSc at Aberystwyth University as part of the Erasmus programme. After the BSc, she completed an MSc in Mathematics from Durham University. There she became more passionate about Applied Mathematics and in particular Mathematical Biology. She approached mathematical modelling in cancer for the first time during her Master's dissertation titled "Network representation of a mathematical model for tissue invasion by cancer cells". 

Research Themes

Research Projects

Collective cell migration is a type of cell movement essential in various biological processes like morphogenesis, wound healing and cancer invasion. During cancer invasion of a primary or a secondary organ, the cancer cells colonise the surrounding environment and migrate either as single cells or in multicellular groups. When cancer cells migrate collectively, they coordinate the movement through cell-cell junctions, keeping them attached to each other. The cancer cells also alter the surrounding environment, the extracellular matrix (ECM), through cell-ECM adhesions and proteolysis activity, which results in ECM degradation.

Margherita is interested in better understanding the mechanical and chemical factors that affect collective cancer cell migration, like mechanical features of the ECM (e.g. stiffness) or chemical gradients such as chemotaxis and haptotaxis.

At the moment, she is focusing on studying the effects of ECM stiffness on spheroid growth in 3D using mathematical and computational modelling.


Single cancer cell migration

In this simulation, we can observe a single cancer cell migrating. The cell moves through voxels and is surrounded by the extracellular matrix (ECM). However, it can only move in the x and y-directions, making this a pseudo-2D environment.
The red x represents the centre of the voxel nearest to the cell's position. The nearest ECM voxel affects cell direction and speed of migration. The corresponding ECM element is also subject to remodelling by the cell, which changes the ECM element's fibre orientation, average anisotropy and density.
In the model, cell migration is also affected by ribose concentration. When adding ribose, the ECM stiffness increases, altering cell migration speed, direction, proliferation rate and more [1].
The computational model has been developed using a PhysiCell ECM-extension [2].

[1] Kenneth M. Yamada, Andrew D. Doyle, and Jiaoyang Lu. Cell–3D matrix interactions: recent advances and opportunities. Trends in Cell Biology, 32(10):883–895, October 2022.[2] John Metzcar, Ben S. Duggan, Brandon Fischer, Matthew Murphy, and Paul Macklin. A novel model of multicellular communication through extracellular matrix microstructure. Nov 2022.