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Spooling Instability of Self-Propelled Flexible Filaments

Cytoskeletal filaments with chemical motors attached are the basic elements in cells that enable biological motion. Computer simulation of model biomotive systems,  for example self-propelled, semiflexible filaments, show that even systems with minimal ingredients are able to generate the kind of exotic nonequilibrium behavior observed in cells. Fascinating features are the formation of extended flocks and rare spooling events such as those shown in the image. The spooling,  observed in the top center of the image, is a spontaneously formed rotating ring of several filaments, matching well those found experimentally.