The twenty-first century will do for biology what the nineteenth did for physics. Today, biology is poised to deliver many new discoveries pollinated by insights and tools gleaned from physics, computer science and engineering. We think of living cells as biochemical factories, but they’re also mechanical objects subject to the laws of physics, and the structures they form are also engineering marvels. When you cut yourself, the healing wound (pictured) begins a process akin to what happens on a building site. Civil engineers used computers to model how mechanical stresses and strains in the wound forced epithelial cells (stained blue) to crawl (red) and to form a ring (yellow) along the wound rim that contracted like a closing iris or a drawstring on a purse. This knowledge could be used to hinder the spread of cancer cells and heal defects and lesions caused by diseases like spina bifida or diabetes.
Written by Tristan Farrow
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.