Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Shape of Life: Research Sheds Light on How Cells Take Shape

09.08.2006
Brown University physicists have identified a surprising force in pattern formation – physical force. Results of their work shed important light on how life takes shape inside cells and are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

How life takes shape is a mystery. Butterfly or baby, cells organize themselves into tissues, tissues form organs, organs become organisms. Over and over, patterns emerge in all living creatures. Spiders get eight legs. Leopards get spots. Every nautilus is encased in an elegant spiral shell.

This phenomenon of pattern formation is critical in developmental biology. But the forces that govern it are far from clear. Alan Turing, father of modern computer science, suggested that the basis for pattern formation was chemical. New research conducted at Brown University and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences supplies another surprising answer: Physical, as well as chemical, forces can dictate pattern formation.

In a two-year study, Brown physicists James Valles and Jay Tang puzzled over the patterns created by proteins called microtubules. Shaped like long, skinny straws, these proteins are puny – they measure only about 250 atoms wide – but play critical roles in the body. Microtubules help cells divide. They also act as scaffolds, giving cells their shape, and serve as train tracks of sorts, moving important bits like chromosomes and mitochondria around inside of cells.

As microtubules multiply, they form patterns that can be seen by the naked eye. The pattern is a series of waves that look a bit like zebra stripes. How, Valles and Tang asked, do they form?

Working with graduate students Yifeng Liu and Yongxing Guo, Valles and Tang grew their own microtubules then studied them under three types of microscopes. After two years of work, they solved the mystery. Chemical bonding and mechanical instability were responsible for the stripes.

In the first stage of the process, the microtubules line up uniformly, like pickets in a fence. As the microtubules continue to grow, they clump together in bundles of 200 to 300. Then these bundles buckle. Valles and Tang believe that the buckling occurs because, as microtubules grow, they create energy and generate force. Then the bundles buckle to relieve compression stress.

“Think of it like the ‘wave’ that fans create during a soccer game. One bundle buckles, then it sets off another bundle, then another bundle, until you get a sea of undulating stripes,” Valles said. “What’s exciting is that this finding may provide insight into how the shapes that make up the human body are created.”

Tang agreed: “Pattern formation is critical to the creation of life. Now we really understand the mechanism behind this type of pattern in microtubules. Force is the key.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration funded the research.

Wendy Lawton | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brown.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht MSU astronomers discovered supermassive black hole in an ultracompact dwarf galaxy
14.08.2018 | Lomonosov Moscow State University

nachricht ASU astrophysicist helps discover that ultrahot planets have starlike atmospheres
13.08.2018 | Arizona State University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

Im Focus: World record: Fastest 3-D tomographic images at BESSY II

The quality of materials often depends on the manufacturing process. In casting and welding, for example, the rate at which melts solidify and the resulting microstructure of the alloy is important. With metallic foams as well, it depends on exactly how the foaming process takes place. To understand these processes fully requires fast sensing capability. The fastest 3D tomographic images to date have now been achieved at the BESSY II X-ray source operated by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.

Dr. Francisco Garcia-Moreno and his team have designed a turntable that rotates ultra-stably about its axis at a constant rotational speed. This really depends...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

First study on physical properties of giant cancer cells may inform new treatments

14.08.2018 | Life Sciences

Tiny Helpers that Clean Cells

14.08.2018 | Life Sciences

Algorithm provides early warning system for tracking groundwater contamination

14.08.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>