Computational models for mechanics of morphogenesis


  • Supported by grant from the National Institutes of Health, the American Academy of Mechanics Founder's Award from the Robert M. and Mary Haythornthwaite Foundation (R01 GM075200, R01 NS070918, F32 GM093396, and T90 DA022871), and from American Heart Association (09PRE2060795).


In the developing embryo, tissues differentiate, deform, and move in an orchestrated manner to generate various biological shapes driven by the complex interplay between genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors. Mechanics plays a key role in regulating and controlling morphogenesis, and quantitative models help us understand how various mechanical forces combine to shape the embryo. Models allow for the quantitative, unbiased testing of physical mechanisms, and when used appropriately, can motivate new experimentaldirections. This knowledge benefits biomedical researchers who aim to prevent and treat congenital malformations, as well as engineers working to create replacement tissues in the laboratory. In this review, we first give an overview of fundamental mechanical theories for morphogenesis, and then focus on models for specific processes, including pattern formation, gastrulation, neurulation, organogenesis, and wound healing. The role of mechanical feedback in development is also discussed. Finally, some perspectives aregiven on the emerging challenges in morphomechanics and mechanobiology. Birth Defects Research (Part C) 96:132–152, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.