CLICK ON weeks 0 - 40 and follow along every 2 weeks of fetal development
Developmental biology - Physiology|
Turing patterns in biology
A Turing system consist of an activator - that must diffuse at a much slower rate than an inhibitor - in order to produce a pattern. The majority of Turing models require a level of parameter fine-tuning that prevents them from being a robust mechanism for any real patterning process. "We learned that studying a Turing system through the topological lens really simplifies the analysis. For example, understanding the source of the diffusion restrictions becomes straightforward, and more importantly, we can easily see what modifications are needed to relax these restrictions," explains Xavier Diego, first author of the paper.
"Our approach can be applied to general Turing systems, and the properties will be true for networks with any number of components. We can now predict if the activity in two nodes in the network is in or out of phase, and we also found out which changes are necessary to switch this around. This allows us to build networks that make any desired pair of substances overlap in space, which could have interesting applications in tissue engineering."
Turing hieroglyphs for experimental groups
The researchers also provide a pictorial method that enables researchers to easily analyse existing networks or to come up with new network designs. "We call them 'Turing hieroglyphs' in the lab," says EMBL Barcelona group leader James Sharpe, who led the work. "By using these hieroglyphs, we hope that our methods will be adopted by both theoreticians and by experimental groups that are trying to implement Turing networks in biological cells."
This expanded theory provides experimental research groups with a new approach to making biological cells develop in patterns in the lab. If experimental groups are successful in this, the questions over whether Turing's theory of morphogenesis applies to biological systems will finally be answered.
Turing’s theory of pattern formation is a universal model for self-organization, applicable to many systems in physics, chemistry, and biology. Essential properties of a Turing system, such as the conditions for the existence of patterns and the mechanisms of pattern selection, are well understood in small networks. However, a general set of rules explaining how network topology determines fundamental system properties and constraints has not been found. Here we provide a first general theory of Turing network topology, which proves three key features of a Turing system are directly determined by its topology: (1) the type of restrictions that apply to the diffusion rates, (2) the robustness of the system, and (3) the phase relations of the molecular species.
Authors: Xavier Diego, Luciano Marcon, Patrick Müller, and James Sharpe.
EMBL is Europe's flagship laboratory for the life sciences. We are an intergovernmental organisation established in 1974 and are supported by over 20 member states.
EMBL performs fundamental research in molecular biology, studying the story of life. We offer services to the scientific community; train the next generation of scientists and strive to integrate the life sciences across Europe.
About the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG)
The Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) is an international biomedical research institute of excellence whose mission is to discover and advance knowledge for the benefit of society, public health and economic prosperity.
The CRG believes that the medicine of the future depends on the groundbreaking science of today. This requires an interdisciplinary scientific team focused on understanding the complexity of life from the genome to the cell to a whole organism and its interaction with the environment, offering an integrated view of genetic diseases.
Return to top of page
EMBL scientists extend Turing's theory to help understand how biological patterns are created.
Image credit: Xavier Diego, EMBL.