Researchers discover new geometric shape dubbed "scutoid"

30 Juillet, 2018, 20:39 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • New Geometric Shape Discovered as Efficient Cell Storage in Nature

They think the scutoid shape is extremely efficient at keeping cells tightly-packed and organised in the literal twists and turns of development. The cells are packed very tightly at this stage and to accommodate the curving that happens during embryonic development scientists discovered with further research that the epithelial cells at this stage adopt a shape that was previously undescribed.

Luisma Escudero, a faculty member at University of Seville's biology department, said: "This process doesn't only occur because of the growth of the organism, but also because the epithelial cells start "moving and joining together" to organise themselves correctly and give the organs their final shape". Well, they first used a computer model that predicted which cell shapes would be most efficient in staying in contact with fellow cells in both flat or curved layers.

Using microscopy and computer imaging, the team confirmed that cells found in fruit fly salivary glands and cells in zebrafish were indeed scutoid-shaped.

The study is the result of a United States-European Union collaboration between the teams of Luis M. Escudero (Seville University, Spain) and that of Javier Buceta (Lehigh University, USA).

Scientists have just defined a new shape called the scutoid (SCOO-toid) while studying epithelial cells, the building blocks of embryos that eventually end up forming our skin and lining our organs and blood vessels. To our surprise the additional shape didn't even have a name in math!

The team analyzed the three-dimensional packing of tissues in different animals, and found they adopted shapes predicted by the model.

New Geometric Shape Discovered as Efficient Cell Storage in Nature
Source Pedro Gómez-Gálvez et al./Nature

They chose to name the scutoid after the scutellum of a beetle (a part of its thorax), because the two look similar from a top-down view. "One does not normally have the opportunity to name a new shape".

According to the researchers, the shape makes for the most energy-efficient method of cell organization.

It was previously thought the cells take on a columnar or bottle-like shape as they pack together.

'In addition to this fundamental aspect of morphogenesis, the ability to engineer tissues and organs in the future critically relies on the ability to understand, and then control, the 3D organization of cells, ' the authors wrote in the study.

'For example, ' Buceta says, 'if you are looking to grow artificial organs, this discovery could help you build a scaffold to encourage this kind of cell packing, accurately mimicking nature's way to efficiently develop tissues'.

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