The ability of cells to self-organize into specific patterns in tissues that serve a function is a universal feature of life. The stripes of a zebra, our eyelashes, the spiral of seeds in a sunflower, and the maze patterns of snakeskins are just a few examples. Using cutting-edge techniques, Northwestern University researchers are the first to see cells moving into position in the developing hexagonal pattern of the fruit fly eye. Northwestern University researchers have discovered that the formation of the pattern involves mechanical forces, not just chemical signals transmitted between cells. Using first-of-its-kind live imaging, the researchers saw cells moving into position as the eye develops; the cells are not static as previously believed. This major discovery provides principles that should extend to other pattern systems.
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Why is this important?
Do you ever feel like your life is a mess? That despite your best efforts, things just don't seem to be going the way you want them to? It might not be you. Maybe, just maybe, it's the way we're organizing ourselves that's at fault. Cells have been organizing themselves for billions of years, so why can't we seem to get it right? Maybe by observing how they do it we can improve how humans are organizing themselves. Who knows, maybe the world will be a more orderly place for everyone if we take some cues from our cellular cousins! By observing living cells and how they behave we can learn more about self-organization, autonomy, communication in large complex organizations. We all know that nature is full of awe-inspiring wonders. But sometimes we don't appreciate just how amazing it is until we take a closer look.
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