How does a cell know when to stop dividing?

Mapson mapson at mapson.com
Fri Jan 15 15:01:33 EST 1999

I am not a student of biology in particular, but I am working on a
programming problem in which a single given point, amidst certain
noise tolerances, needs to spread out in to a larger, pre-targeted 3d
form. I can't limit the point externally; it has to, i.e., "know" when
to stop without hitting some external "barrier."

To me, this sounds an awful lot like in part what a fertilized egg
does through division- which may indeed be a nice model to follow.

Problem is, in biological forms, how is the final form arrived at? Is
there a distinct spacial positioning of the early divided cells right
from the start that simply, by "brute force", keeps growing in certain
fixed directions determined by initial placement? Regeneration of
tails (for instance) seems to argue against this. Is there any
evidence of some sort of thing resembling an "externally positioned
barrier" (chemically measurable distance, or even some sort of
bio-electrical field etc.) that gets "put up" by the system as it

I remember asking my high school professor this sort of question; back
there there really was no good answer- is there one now?

Please post here; I will be following closely. Thanks.

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