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Embryonic development involves diffusion and proliferation of cells, as well as diffusion and reaction of molecules, within growing tissues. Mathematical models of these processes often involve reaction-diffusion equations on growing domains that have been primarily studied using approximate numerical solutions. Recently, we have shown how to obtain an exact solution to a single, uncoupled, linear reaction-diffusion equation on a growing domain, 0 < x < L(t), where L(t) is the domain length. The present work is an extension of our previous study, and we illustrate how to solve a system of coupled reaction-diffusion equations on a growing domain. This system of equations can be used to study the spatial and temporal distributions of different generations of cells within a population that diffuses and proliferates within a growing tissue. The exact solution is obtained by applying an uncoupling transformation, and the uncoupled equations are solved separately before applying the inverse uncoupling transformation to give the coupled solution. We present several example calculations to illustrate different types of behaviour. The first example calculation corresponds to a situation where the initially-confined population diffuses sufficiently slowly that it is unable to reach the moving boundary at x = L(t). In contrast, the second example calculation corresponds to a situation where the initially-confined population is able to overcome the domain growth and reach the moving boundary at x = L(t). In its basic format, the uncoupling transformation at first appears to be restricted to deal only with the case where each generation of cells has a distinct proliferation rate. However, we also demonstrate how the uncoupling transformation can be used when each generation has the same proliferation rate by evaluating the exact solutions as an appropriate limit.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Algorithms, Models, Theoretical