Experiment explains how tiger stripes are formed

February 21st, 2012 - 4:17 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 21 (IANS) Validating a theory famous code-breaker and mathematician Alan Turing put forth in 1950s, researchers at King’s College london have provided the first experimental evidence to show how tiger stripes or leopard spots are formed.

Turing had proposed that regular repeating patterns in biological systems are generated by a pair of morphogens that work together as an ‘activator’ and ‘inhibitor,’ the journal ‘Nature Genetics’ reports.

To test the theory, researchers studied the development of the regularly-spaced ridges found in the roof of the mouth in mice, according to a King’s College statement.

Experimentation with mouse embryos helped the team identify the pair of specific morphogens working together to influence where each ridge will be formed.

They showed that the increasing or decreasing activity of morphogens affects the pattern of the ridges in the mouth palate, in ways predicted by Turing’s equations.

Jeremy Green, craniofacial surgeon from King’s Dental Institute said: “Regularly spaced structures, from vertebrae and hair follicles to the stripes on a tiger or zebrafish, are a fundamental motif in biology. Our study provides the first experimental identification of an activator-inhibitor system at work in the generation of stripes - in this case, in the ridges of the mouth palate.”

“As this year marks Turing’s centenary, it is a fitting tribute to this great mathematician and computer scientist that we should now be able to prove that his theory was right all along!” concluded Green.

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