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Facial defects shown to self-repair
Date:4/25/2012

to repair those malformations. It was, the researchers said, as if the system were able to recognize departures from the normal state and undertake corrective action that would not typically take place.

"We were quite astounded to see that, long before they underwent metamorphosis and became frogs, these tadpoles had normal looking faces. Imagine the implications of an animal with a severe 'birth defect' that, with time alone, can correct that defect," said Vandenberg.

Information Exchange Process

These results, say the Tufts biologists, are consistent with an information exchange process in which a structure triangulates its distance and angle from a stable reference point. While further study is needed, the researchers propose that "pings" (information-containing signals) are exchanged between an "organizing center" such as the brain and neural network and individual craniofacial structures.

The article points out that congenital malformations of craniofacial structures comprise a significant class of birth defects such as cleft lip, cleft palate and microphthalmia, affecting more than 1 in every 600 births. Demystifying the "face-fixing" mechanism by further research at the molecular level could inspire new approaches to correcting birth defects in humans.

"Such understanding would have huge implications not only for repairing birth defects, but also for other areas of systems biology and complexity science. It could help us build hybrid bioengineered systems, for synthetic or regenerative biology, or entirely artificial robotic systems that can repair themselves after damage or reconfigure their own structure to match changing needs in a complex environment," said Levin.


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Contact: Kim Thurler
kim.thurler@tufts.edu
617-627-3175
Tufts University
Source:Eurekalert  

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