The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 50: 245 - 253 (2006)

Vol 50, Issue 2-3

Special Issue: Developmental Morphodynamics

Mechanics in embryogenesis and embryonics: prime mover or epiphenomenon?

Open Access | Published: 15 February 2006

Richard Gordon*

Departments of Radiology and Biosystems Engineering, University of Manitoba, Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg, Canada


Mechanics is shown to be an important, perhaps central component to the differentiation and development of embryos. Mechanics of the nucleus may also be involved in determining which genes are expressed in a given cell. There are two major approaches at present to the mechanics of differentiation in embryos: morphomechanics and differentiation waves. These are compared in detail, to provide a starting point for future experimental work to bring them into one conceptual framework. This may rationalize the present cookbookery of stem cell production by placing it in the context of differentiation waves and the differentiation code. Embryonics, the realization of concepts from embryology in computer hardware and software, might be considerably enhanced by incorporating mechanical concepts of embryogenesis. Segmented robots, modular robotics, cellular microrobotics, flexible electronics, wearable computers, diatom nanotechnology and waves in active media point to a synthesis that we could call embryonic robotics.


embryo physics, differentiation wave, morphodynamics, differentiation code, artificial life

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