Estimating cell diffusivity and cell proliferation rate by interpreting IncuCyte ZOOM™ assay data using the Fisher-Kolmogorov model

Johnston, Stuart, Shah, Esha Tushit, Chopin, Lisa K., McElwain, Sean, & Simpson, Matthew (2015) Estimating cell diffusivity and cell proliferation rate by interpreting IncuCyte ZOOM™ assay data using the Fisher-Kolmogorov model. BMC Systems Biology, 9(38).

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Standard methods for quantifying IncuCyte ZOOM™ assays involve measurements that quantify how rapidly the initially-vacant area becomes re-colonised with cells as a function of time. Unfortunately, these measurements give no insight into the details of the cellular-level mechanisms acting to close the initially-vacant area. We provide an alternative method enabling us to quantify the role of cell motility and cell proliferation separately. To achieve this we calibrate standard data available from IncuCyte ZOOM™ images to the solution of the Fisher-Kolmogorov model.


The Fisher-Kolmogorov model is a reaction-diffusion equation that has been used to describe collective cell spreading driven by cell migration, characterised by a cell diffusivity, D, and carrying capacity limited proliferation with proliferation rate, λ, and carrying capacity density, K. By analysing temporal changes in cell density in several subregions located well-behind the initial position of the leading edge we estimate λ and K. Given these estimates, we then apply automatic leading edge detection algorithms to the images produced by the IncuCyte ZOOM™ assay and match this data with a numerical solution of the Fisher-Kolmogorov equation to provide an estimate of D. We demonstrate this method by applying it to interpret a suite of IncuCyte ZOOM™ assays using PC-3 prostate cancer cells and obtain estimates of D, λ and K. Comparing estimates of D, λ and K for a control assay with estimates of D, λ and K for assays where epidermal growth factor (EGF) is applied in varying concentrations confirms that EGF enhances the rate of scratch closure and that this stimulation is driven by an increase in D and λ, whereas K is relatively unaffected by EGF.


Our approach for estimating D, λ and K from an IncuCyte ZOOM™ assay provides more detail about cellular-level behaviour than standard methods for analysing these assays. In particular, our approach can be used to quantify the balance of cell migration and cell proliferation and, as we demonstrate, allow us to quantify how the addition of growth factors affects these processes individually.

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ID Code: 91497
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Cell motility, Cell proliferation, Scratch assay, Leading edge detection, Cancer, Wound healing
DOI: 10.1186/s12918-015-0182-y
ISSN: 1752-0509
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES (010000) > APPLIED MATHEMATICS (010200) > Biological Mathematics (010202)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Mathematical Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: © 2015 Johnston et al
Copyright Statement: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License
(, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http:// applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated
Deposited On: 04 Jan 2016 04:12
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2016 21:57

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