Biophysicists Uncover Powerful Symmetries in Living Tissue

Luca Giomi still remembers the time when, as a young graduate student. He watched two videos of droplets streaming from an inkjet printer. The videos were practically identical — except one wasn’t a video at all. It was a simulation. “I was absolutely mind-blown,” said Giomi, a biophysicist at Leiden University. “You could predict everything about the ink droplets.” The simulation was powered by the mathematical laws of fluid dynamics, which describes how gases and liquids behave. And now, years after admiring those ink droplets, Giomi still wonders how he might achieve that level of precision for systems that are a bit more complicated than ink droplets.

Flow and Symmetry

Liquid crystals flow like fluids, but they Phone Number List still have a degree of crystalline order. A sort of inherent symmetry or directionality that’s a bit like the grain of wood. And just as a wood plank is strongest along its grain. A liquid crystal’s response to stimuli depends on its symmetry and orientation. This directionality, called anisotropy, is the optical magic behind modern liquid crystal displays. Which refract light differently depending on their orientation. Abstractions navigates promising ideas in science and mathematics. Journey with us and join the conversation. See all Abstractions blog Though we might be more familiar with the liquid crystals in TV screens, they are also common in cell biology, found inside cells and in cell membranes.

A New Fluid Order

Eckert started by growing thin layers of Calling List epithelial tissue in the lab. Then she carefully marked out the boundaries of each individual cell in microscope images. Now Giomi and his team could get to work. They wanted to see whether the tissue’s symmetry differed between small scales. When they considered just a few cells and their neighbors — and zoomed-out, larger scales. But to disentangle the nested symmetries in Eckert’s sheets of cells. The team needed a reliable way to distinguish nematic and hexatic orders in messy biological data.

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