Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 7th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Blooming Useful
14 March 2017

Blooming Useful

We all grow from a tiny ball of cells to a complex creature with features like brains, limbs, and guts. Growing organs like these involves 3D folding, and the shape formed is determined by how the cells and tissues within it move and grow. Scientists have been using Snapdragon flowers to examine shapes like this, as the way their cells move is simpler. Computer models were used to show the flower shape when the tissue grew in different ways, producing different internal forces. These models could then be compared to actual flowers, both normal ones and flowers that hadn’t formed in their usual shape due to mutations (pictured). They found that cells in different parts can grow at different rates, making areas of the petal bend into particular shapes. Although our cells move in more complex ways than plant cells, this may help us understand how our organs form.

Written by Esther Redhouse White

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