Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The Shape Of Life: Research Sheds Light On How Cells Take Shape

Date:
August 8, 2006
Source:
Brown University
Summary:
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.

Powerful forces on a very small scale: Bundles of microtubules, once lined up uniformly straight, begin to buckle and bend under compression stress generated their own growth. That distortion may be the beginning of pattern formation in natural objects.
Credit: Image : Yongxing Guo and Yifeng Liu

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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Brown University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Brown University. "The Shape Of Life: Research Sheds Light On How Cells Take Shape." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 August 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060807154756.htm>.
Brown University. (2006, August 8). The Shape Of Life: Research Sheds Light On How Cells Take Shape. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060807154756.htm
Brown University. "The Shape Of Life: Research Sheds Light On How Cells Take Shape." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060807154756.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Rare Lion Cubs Make Debut at Belgrade Zoo

Raw: Rare Lion Cubs Make Debut at Belgrade Zoo

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) Two white lion cubs were born in Belgrade zoo three weeks ago. White lions are a rare mutation of a species found in South Africa and some cultures consider them divine. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sweet Times for Hard Cider Makers

Sweet Times for Hard Cider Makers

AP (Oct. 16, 2014) With hard cider making a hardcore comeback across the country, craft makers are trying to keep up with demand and apple growers are tapping a juicy new revenue stream. (Oct. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Meet Garfi the Angry Cat

Meet Garfi the Angry Cat

Buzz60 (Oct. 16, 2014) Garfi is one frowny, feisty feline - downright angry! Ko Im (@koimtv) introduces us to the latest animal celebrity taking over the Internet. You can follow more of Garfi's adventures on Twitter (@MeetGarfi) and Facebook (Garfi). Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins