Academics from the Centre for Craniofacial & Regenerative Biology have published an article in the journal Development as a Research Highlight. The work on the fundamental mechanisms that organise structures in the mouth, updates and applies a computer model of self-organisation originally proposed by the Enigma Code breaker and Artificial Intelligence pioneer Alan Turing. The model, known as “Reaction-Diffusion” or RD, is broadly applicable in developmental processes.
In collaboration with mathematician Professor Nick Monk from the University of Sheffield, Postdoc Dr Andrew Economou and Professor Jeremy Green from King’s matched up the computational model with multiple molecular signalling pathways that act together the mouse embryo. By tracking gene expression in the repeated ridges on the roof of the mouth, known as rugae, in normal and inhibitor-treated tissue they determined how five different pathways regulate and provide feedback for each other to stabilise the pattern. They also developed the mathematical rules to be able to extend this approach to any number of interacting signals.
Understanding regulatory circuitry is a route to correctly directing cells and regenerating tissues for therapeutic purposes. The study articulates the principles of multi-morphogen RD patterning and demonstrates the utility of perturbation analysis for constraining RD systems.
The issue of Development also features an interview with Dr Economou and Professor Green who discuss their own backgrounds, the new work and their plans for the future.