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Gabor Forgacs
University of Missouri - Columbia

The Role of Physical Mechanisms in Biological Self-Organization

Organs form during morphogenesis, the process that gives rise to specialized biological structures of specific shape and function in early embryonic development. Morphogenesis is under strict genetic control, but shape evolution itself is a physical process. Here we report the results of experimental and modeling biophysical studies on in vitro biological structure formation. Experimentally, by controlling the interaction between cells and their embedding matrices, we were able to build living structures of definite geometry. The experimentally observed shape evolution was reproduced by Monte Carlo simulations using a statistical mechanical model of the cellular system, which also shed light on the biophysical basis of the process. Our work suggests a novel way to engineer biological structures of controlled shape.

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