University of Cambridge > > Engineering for the Life Sciences Seminars > Cell Morphogenesis – What We Have Learned from Rubber Balloons and Soap Bubbles

Cell Morphogenesis – What We Have Learned from Rubber Balloons and Soap Bubbles

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Cells acquire a wide range of forms and sizes, often reflecting the intricate functions they serve. Although cells are complex, many of their characteristic geometrical features are dictated by well-known physical laws. The idea that simple physical models can shed light on fundamental cell biology problems can be traced back to D’Arcy W. Thompson’s masterpiece “On Growth and Form”. I will present two examples from plant cells. The first example is cell division in tissue layers. As Thompson pointed out, and as we have shown experimentally, cell division obeys the same rules of energy minimization as soap films. These rules have allowed us predict the geometry of dividing cells as well as the proportion of different division types. A second example is the folding of spherical pollen grains. We have shown that a large fraction of the diversity in pollen morphology can be explained by attempts to balance the bending and stretching energy of the thin wall layer that covers the pollen grain.

This talk is part of the Engineering for the Life Sciences Seminars series.

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