An unknown geometric shape, the escutoid, has been discovered and named by Spanish scientists, examining how nature envelops cells efficiently during embryonic development. As an embryo develops, tissues bend into complex three-dimensional shapes that lead to the organs. The epithelial cells are the building blocks of this process that form, for example, the outer layer of the skin. They also coat the blood vessels and organs of all animals. These cells are tightly packed together. To accommodate the curvature that occurs during embryonic development, it has been assumed that the epithelial cells adopt columnar or bottle-like forms. However, a group of scientists delved into this phenomenon and discovered that, during tissue flexion, epithelial cells adopt a previously undescribed shape that allows cells to minimize energy use and maximize packaging stability. The result is published in Nature Communications. The study is the result of a United States-European Union collaboration between the teams of Luis M. Escudero (University of Seville) and Javier Buceta (University of Lehigh). Buceta and his colleagues first made the discovery through computer models that used the Voronoi layout, a tool used in various fields to understand geometric organization. "During the modeling process, the results we saw were strange," he says. Buceta "Our model predicted that as the curvature of the tissue increases, the columns and the shapes of the bottles were not the only forms that the cells could develop in. To our surprise, the additional shape did not even have a name! has the opportunity to name a new way. "
The group has named the new escutoid form, because of its resemblance to the scutellum, the back of a thorax or middle section of an insect. To verify the predictions of the model, the group investigated the three-dimensional packaging of different tissues in different animals. Experimental data confirmed that epithelial cells adopted three-dimensional packaging patterns and motifs similar to those predicted by the computational model. Using biophysical approaches, the team argues that escutoids stabilize three-dimensional packaging and make it energy efficient. As Buceta says: "We have unlocked the solution of nature to achieve an efficient epithelial flexion". His findings could pave the way for understanding the three-dimensional organization of the epithelial organs and lead to advances in tissue engineering. Duke adds: "For example, if you're looking to grow artificial organs, this discovery could help you build a scaffold to encourage this. type of cell packing, precisely mimicking the nature's way of developing tissues efficiently. "


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