PhysiCell Demo: Bio-robots

This is Video S5 in Ghaffarizadeh et al. (2018). A higher-resolution (1080p) video can be streamed at


Using PhysiCell to test design rules for bio-robots.

Here, we construct three cell types as a bio-robotic cargo delivery system.

1) "Director" cells secrete a chemoattractant to attract worker cells when they have cargo

2) "Cargo" cells secrete a different chemoattractant to attract worker cells when they don't have cargo. They turn off the chemoattractant once they are found.

3) "Worker" cells chemotax towards cargo cells, test for presence of a receptor, and dock if it's present. They haul cargo (chemotactically) towards the "director" cells and release the cargo if the chemoattractant exceeds a threshold level.

This simulation took a few hours to design, and ran in about 12 minutes on a desktop workstation, with data saved once per simulated minute. (2,880 save times) Simulations without file I/O are significantly faster.


Green cells: “Director” cells

Blue cells: “Cargo” cells

Red cells: “worker” cells

This work is based on PhysiCell, an open source 3-D modeling package for multicellular biology at

Method: Demonstration of PhysiCell, an agent-based, lattice-free model. Cell velocities determined by balance of adhesive, repulsive, and motile forces. Each cell has a phenotypic state governed by stochastic processes derived from nonhomogeneous Poisson processes.

Software source: PhysiCell is available as open source at,, and