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Study on human cell led to the discovery of new shape – Scutoid

'To our surprise, the additional shape didn’t even have a name in math! One does not normally have the opportunity to name a new shape,' said Javier Buceta.

A new shape has been discovered by scientists while studying nature’s way of moulding tissue to form the skin, cavity linings and the building blocks of organs, in the human body. They named it scutoid.

This new but complicated shape has five sides on one end and six on the other and a triangular surface on one of its longer edges. Scientists referred to it as a twisted prism sort of shape that allows the tissue to mould around organs.

“During the modelling process, the results we saw were weird,” Javier Buceta, a lead author of the study, which was published in Nature Communications told HT. “Our model predicted that as the curvature of the tissue increases, columns and bottle-shapes were not the only shapes that cells may develop. To our surprise, the additional shape didn’t even have a name in math! One does not normally have the opportunity to name a new shape.”

The name was given in reference to this shape’s similarity to the scutellum, the lower most segment of an insect’s thorax, the midsection. The authors argue that the peculiar shape makes the packing stable and “energetically efficient.”
Epithelial tissue, that forms the human body, is composed of epithelial cells packed together in a particular formation that has been given a nifty name: scutoid. Epithelial cells are the key cells during embryonic development and are the building blocks of tissues and organs. Epithelial tissue doesn’t just form complex 3D shapes and the outer skin layer but also the inner lining of blood vessels.

Till now, the widely accepted belief is the epithelial cells assume columnar or bottle-like shapes.

“Studies about epithelial cells have focused mostly on one side, the surface of these cells , partly because of technical limitations, and extrapolated that surface as a proxy for their three-dimensional structure,” Buceta explained. “We made a computational model that predicted these shapes and then confirmed this result in a number of tissues of different animals.”

The research, the result of a US-EU collaboration, first discovered the existence of the new shape through computations modelling, which was later confirmed through experiments investigating its presence in different kinds of tissues and animals.

Apart from the novelty of the finding, it is significant for the understanding of epithelial organs and will contribute to the field of tissue engineering specifically development of artificial organs.

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