Cellular Automata and Tissue Engineering

I’m taking a tissue engineering course right now, (see previous post), and this has rekindled my interest in cellular automata. I was first introduced to them by Stephen Wolfram’s book, A New Kind of Science (freely available online). This is one of the books that helped me to understand how complex life can develop from relatively simple rules.

It’s led me to wonder how much tissue engineering experimentation could be done using 3D cellular automata. Tissue engineering requires all kinds of cell lines and biochemicals, incubation times, and so on, making it somewhat expensive and time consuming. The ability to model, say, mesenchymal stem cells with cellular automata could be used to ‘get a feel’ for tissue development with less time and expense.

I went looking for 3D cellular automata to play with, and came across this one:


Cellumat3D is a tool for simulating and exploring cellular automata in 3D space. The application uses OpenGL and is fast enough to give a good impression why cellular automata are regarded as part of artificial life research.

It’s a little obscure, and there’s not really any documentation that I’ve seen for setting up rules. I need to double-check the CVS code for documentation. The author also links to a bountiful resource page on 3D cellular automata. It looks like it hasn’t been updated in a while. At least some of the links work, including one to a java-based 3D simulator of the Game of Life. It’s pretty slick — you can grab and rotate it with the mouse and so on. Here’s another one that’s a little less intuitive but allows editing. Life3D looks interesting, but it’s only available for Windows.

If you know of any other 3D cellular automata for Linux/Unix/OS X please do pass them along in the comments or by email.

ADDENDUM: 2006-02-15 @ 21:04 CST – MathWorld has a page on cellular automata in Mathematica.

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