Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract During early development migratory mesenchymal cells navigate to distant sites where they aggregate to form a variety of embryonic organ rudiments. We present here a new model for mesenchymal cell morphogenesis based on the mechanical interaction between motile cells and their extracellular environment. The model is based on two properties of motile cells: (a) they are capable of generating large traction forces which can deform the extracellular matrix through which they move, and (b) the deformations they produce in their environment affect the direction of their movements. We derive field equations which describe the motion of cells in an elastic extracellular matrix and show that these equations can generate a variety of spatial patterns, such as the formations of skin organ primordia, especially feather germs, cartilage condensation patterns which presage bone formation in limb development, and melanocyte density patterns which form animal coat patterns.
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