Complex new shape discovered in cells

Meet the scutoid a newly discovered geometric shape

Meet the scutoid a newly discovered geometric shape

Until now, these "blocks" were represented as being prism-shaped or being like truncated pyramids. Get ready to add yet another shape to that list. Researchers from the University of Seville, in collaboration with an associate professor from Lehigh University, say they have discovered a new shape, called the "scutoid". "In this way, during the development of an embryo, it changes from a simple structure formed from only a handful of cells to an animal with very complex organs".

As such, this epithelial tissue - made up of millions upon millions of these tiny cells squashed together - doesn't just make up our external skin, but also lines our internal organs. To accommodate the curving that occurs during embryonic development, it has been assumed that epithelial cells adopt either columnar or bottle-like shapes.

An worldwide team of scientists redefined that assumption, serendipitously discovering a new geometric shape.

The researchers at The University of Seville and Seville Institute of Biomedicine (IBiS) say the structure looks more like a "twisted prism".

Lee at Forbes reports that the new shape, described in a paper in the journal Nature Communications, helps solve a long-standing conundrum about human skin. Voronoi diagramming is a tool that's used in understanding geometrical organization. Previously, scientists thought they were able to remain tightly packed if they were bottle-shaped or column-shaped, but advanced computer simulations have revealed that a more complex shape is likely.

The other shape that was discovered didn't even have a name in math. Scutoid was chosen because of its resemblance to the scutellum, the posterior part of an insect thorax or midsection.

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This new shape allows epithelial cells to closely pack together around tight curves.

But why pick the name scutoid?

In addition to the usual suspects, Buceta's team noticed a unusual shape they didn't recognise.

The team analyzed the three-dimensional packing of tissues in different animals, and found they adopted shapes predicted by the model. The shape can stabilize three-dimensional packing and make it more energy efficient. As Buceta puts it: "We have unlocked nature's solution to achieving efficient epithelial bending".

While measuring the area of a scutoid might not be on a math test anytime soon, understanding its shape and its objective could help biologists better comprehend how nature creates certain shapes.

'In addition to this fundamental aspect of morphogenesis, the ability to engineer tissues and organs in the future critically relies on the ability to understand, and then control, the 3D organization of cells, ' the authors wrote in the study.

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