Body sculpting: Tissue mechanics in development and regeneration
January 18, 2012 - 10:00am
Embryogenesis and regeneration are among the most striking and beautiful phenomena in nature. For a physicist, this brings together many major themes—pattern formation, information processing, the mechanics of complex fluid-like materials—that are essential for our understanding of life more broadly. In my talk I will give two examples on the important role of tissue mechanics for these phenomena.
First, I will discuss how a macroscopic tissue property, specifically tissue surface tension, is connected to the properties of the constituent cells, such as cortical tension and adhesion. I will directly compare theoretical predictions with experimental data and discuss the relationship between tissue surface tension and tissue dynamics using primarily zebrafish embryonic tissues as the experimental system.
In the second part of my talk, I'll switch gears over to regeneration and asexual reproduction in planarians. Asexual reproduction and the ability to regenerate are intrinsically connected, but despite this important link, little is known about the physical process of reproduction due to experimental difficulties. We have overcome some of these difficulties and I will present preliminary data on the physical mechanisms of dividing planarians. Finally, I will discuss our current understanding of the asexual population dynamics based on a large-scale experiment in which we have been tracking >10,000 reproductive events over the course of >2.5 years and up to 51 generations using a custom-built Scan-Add-Print database system.