The mechanics of crawling cells on a substrate is investigated by using a minimal model that satisfies the force-free condition. A cell is described by two subcellular elements connected by a linear actuator that changes the length of the cell cyclically in time, together with periodic alternation of adhesive characters at the interface between the cell and the substrate. Here the key model parameters are the phase shifts between the elongation of the actuator and the alternation of the adhesion of the two elements. We emphasize that the phase shifts determine not only the efficiency of the crawling motion but also its direction.
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