Horses with spots and giraffes with stripes

Shigeru Kondo (Institute of Frontier Biosciences, Osaka University, Japan) gave one of the last talks at the “Computational approaches to networks, cells and tissues” meeting that took place this week  at the PRBB Auditorium.

Co-organised by James Sharpe (CRG) and Hernán López-Schier (HZM), the meeting was supported by QuanTissue, a collaborative European network to bridge the gap between the traditional developmental cell biology, biophysics and systems biology. And so it did!

Most of the nearly 200 participants were physicysts or mathematicians, as one could tell from their presentations and posters full of complicated mathematical formulae. But the subjects they studied were all related to the development of tissues and organs within organisms.

Kondo, for example, talked about the pigmentation pattern of zebrafish and how the Turing model could explain it.

Although his lab found there is no actual diffusion of any molecules, they showed that the interaction between the two types of pigment cells that define the skin patterns in the fish can still be explained by the Turing reaction-diffusion model. Melanophores, one of the cell types, elongate long projections towards xanthophores, the other cell type, and the effect of this is mathematically equivalent to the classical Turing model. Interestingly, he showed how, changing one single gene his lab was able to generate fish with skin patterns resembling most of those present in nature, from leopards and jaguars to zebras. Hence, the title of this posts, with which he finished his talk: “If you want horses with spots or giraffes with stripes, I can make it!”.

The meeting is still going on – another two hours of good science if you rush!

A report by Maruxa Martinez, Scientific Editor at the PRBB


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