Computer modelling and image analysis shows chemical and mechanical signals underlying tissue patterning
Often practical as well as pretty, how do nature’s patterns form? The developing retina inside a fruit fly (Drosophila) eye is studded with photoreceptors, gathering light from the outside world. It acts like a bed of sensors to capture a complete image, so it’s essential that clusters of photoreceptors, known as ommatidia, are evenly spaced in a grid-like pattern. Here researchers use image analysis and computer modelling to show how ommatidia develop in consecutive columns (highlighted in the same colour) – a mixture of mechanical and chemical signals from cells in a previous column coaxes the next line of ommatidia cells to form in the gaps like polka dots. Gradually a wave of development patterns the retina, like curtains being printed (although 10000 times smaller). These simulating techniques could now be used to study patterns in early human tissues, or to predict how pattern-painting morphogenesis may go awry during development.
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