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Cell trajectory data are often reported in the experimental cell biology literature to distinguish between different types of cell migration. Unfortunately, there is no accepted protocol for designing or interpreting such experiments and this makes it difficult to quantitatively compare different published datasets and to understand how changes in experimental design influence our ability to interpret different experiments. Here, we use an individual-based mathematical model to simulate the key features of a cell trajectory experiment. This shows that our ability to correctly interpret trajectory data is extremely sensitive to the geometry and timing of the experiment, the degree of motility bias and the number of experimental replicates. We show that cell trajectory experiments produce data that are most reliable when the experiment is performed in a quasi-one-dimensional geometry with a large number of identically prepared experiments conducted over a relatively short time-interval rather than a few trajectories recorded over particularly long time-intervals.

Original publication




Journal article


J R Soc Interface

Publication Date





cell migration assay, cell trajectory, confidence, random walk model, Animals, Cell Movement, Humans, Models, Biological, Time Factors