Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Topological defects in biological matter

Topological defects play an important role in biology, as shown by a growing body of evidence. Aleksandra Ardaševa and Amin Doostmohammadi survey the new research directions that are opening.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Moving bacteria can be trapped by topological defects of their own making.


  1. Langer, J. S. & Ambegaokar, V. Intrinsic resistive transition in narrow superconducting channels. Phys. Rev. 164, 498–510 (1967).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Marchetti, M. C. et al. Hydrodynamics of soft active matter. Rev. Mod. Phys. 85, 1143–1189 (2013).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Shankar, S. et al. Topological active matter. Nat. Rev. Phys. (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Doostmohammadi, A. et al. Active nematics. Nat. Commun. 9, 3246 (2018).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Saw, T. et al. Topological defects in epithelia govern cell death and extrusion. Nature 544, 212–216 (2017).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Maroudas-Sacks, Y. et al. Topological defects in the nematic order of actin fibres as organization centres of Hydra morphogenesis. Nat. Phys. 17, 251–259 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Meacock, O. J. et al. Bacteria solve the problem of crowding by moving slowly. Nat. Phys. 17, 205–210 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Doostmohammadi, A. & Ladoux, B. Physics of liquid crystals in cell biology. Trends Cell Biol. 32, 140–150 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Turiv, T. et al. Topology control of human fibroblast cells monolayer by liquid crystal elastomer. Sci. Adv. 6, eaaz6485 (2020).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Endresen, K. D. et al. Topological defects of integer charge in cell monolayers. Soft Matter 17, 5878–5887 (2021).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


A.D. acknowledges funding from the Novo Nordisk Foundation (grant no. NNF18SA0035142), Villum Fonden (grant no. 29476). A.A. and A.D. acknowledge support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 847523 (INTERACTIONS).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Amin Doostmohammadi.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ardaševa, A., Doostmohammadi, A. Topological defects in biological matter. Nat Rev Phys 4, 354–356 (2022).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing