Physics of morphogenesis

Addressing the chemo-mechanobiological aspects of pattern formation

Perhaps one of the most marvellous processes in biology is the stereotypical, robust, and reproducible development of tissues and organisms. Over a 100 years ago, D'Arcy Thompson famously tried to scientifically explain morphogenesis, the process by which patterns and body structures are formed in plants and animals in “On Growth and Form”. Furthermore, in 1952 Alain Turing described pattern formation based on reaction-diffusion models, hinting towards the importance of both chemical and physical ingredients. More recently, the interface between physics and biology has significantly increased in strength, highlighting the delicate interplay between biochemical and gene regulatory processes on one side, and fluid/cell mechanical and active, nonequilibrium processes on the other side. Key questions investigated at Imperial College and partner institutes are:

  • Role of stem cell niche in regeneration and cancer
  • Role of protein clustering and fluid mechanical flows in cell polarisation of C. elegans zygotes
  • Robustness of vulva development in C. elegans embryos


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