Mechanobiology and morphogenesis in living matter: a survey
Tuesday 31st January 2017
Ambrosi, D.; Beloussov, L.V.; Ciarletta, P.
Morphogenesis in living tissues is the paramount example of a time- and space-dependent orchestration of living matter where shape and order emerge from undifferentiated initial conditions. The genes encode the protein expression that eventually drives the emergence of the phenotype, while energy supply and cell-to-cell communication mechanisms are necessary to such a process. The overall control of the system likely exploits the laws of chemistry and physics through robust and universal processes. Even if the identification of the communication mechanisms is a question of fundamental nature, a long-standing investigation settled in the realm of chemical factors only (also known as morphogens) faces a number of apparently unsolvable questions. In this paper, we investigate at what extent mechanical forces, alone or through their biological feedbacks, can direct some basic aspects of morphogenesis in development biology. In this branch of mechano-biology, we discuss the typical rheological regimes of soft living matter and the related forces, providing a survey on how local mechanical feedbacks can control global size or even gene expression. We finally highlight the pivotal role of nonlinear mechanics to explain the emergence of complex shapes in living matter.
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