The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 53: 663 - 671 (2009)

Vol 53, Issue 5-6

Special Issue: Pattern Formation

Limb pattern, physical mechanisms and morphological evolution - an interview with Stuart A. Newman

Interview | Published: 5 June 2009

Cheng-Ming Chuong*

Department of Pathology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA


Stuart A. Newman grew up in New York City. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University and obtained a Ph.D. in chemical physics from the University of Chicago in 1970. He did post-doctoral studies in several institutions and disciplines with a focus on theoretical and developmental biology. He had a rich experience interacting with people like Stuart Kauffman, Arthur Winfree, Brian Goodwin, and John W. Saunders, Jr. He was also exposed to many interesting experimental models of development. These early experiences fostered his interest in biological pattern formation. He joined the State University of New York at Albany as a junior faculty member when Saunders was still there. With his physical science background, Newman’s approach to limb bud patterning was refreshing. In his major Science paper in 1979, he and H.L. Frisch proposed a model showing how reaction-diffusion can produce chemical standing waves to set up limb skeletal patterns. He then used limb bud micromass cultures for further development and testing of the model. Extending earlier ideas, he developed a comprehensive framework for the role of physical mechanisms (diffusion, differential adhesion, oscillation, dynamical multistability, reaction diffusion, mechano-chemical coupling, etc.) in morphogenesis. He also applied these mechanisms to understand the origin of multicellularity and evolution of novel body plans. Here Newman reflects on his intellectual growth, and shares with us his ideas on how pattern formation works, and how generic physical mechanisms interact with genetic mechanisms to achieve the evolution and development of animal forms.


Systems biology, theoretical model, reaction-diffusion

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