The Washington University School of Medicine is reporting about some very interesting research:
The laws of physics combine with the mutual attraction of two proteins to create the honeycomb pattern of fruit fly eyes, say molecular biologists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. This same combination of forces forms the delicate filtering structures of the mammalian kidney.
The findings, reported in the June issue of Developmental Cell, provide a new understanding of how individual cells find their niche during organ development. They also mean that the fruit fly eye can now become a fast, inexpensive system for gaining insight into how kidneys develop in mammals and why development sometimes goes awry.
“We’ve challenged scientists who study the development of organs such as eyes and kidneys to think about physics,” says Ross Cagan, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular biology and pharmacology. “In the developing fruit fly eye, we found that cells change shape and move into their proper placement because they want to minimize the free energy of the system.”
Just as molecules of oil floating in water will gather together to exclude water molecules, cells with “sticky” molecules on their surface will gather together in clumps to exclude “non-sticky” cells during organ development. This property of cell adhesion has been previously proposed as a key to moving different cell types into the right positions as developing organs change from an immature, disorganized state to a mature, functional state.
More in the press release…