How does a cell know when to stop dividing?

Peter Ashby p.r.ashby at dundee.MAPS.ac.uk
Fri Jan 22 13:38:10 EST 1999

Are you asking how form is arrived at in the embryo or are you asking how
do structures stop growing? These are two very different questions and
therefore have very different answers.


In article <369f9d05.365548834 at news.cis.yale.edu>, mapson at mapson.com
(Mapson) wrote:

> 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
> grows?
> 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.

Peter Ashby
Wellcome Trust Building
University of Dundee
Dundee, Scotland
Reverse the spam and remove to email me.

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