Walking the tightrope: The dilemmas of hierarchical instabilities in Turing’s morphogenesis

Richard Gordon
Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory
Panacea, Florida, USA
Presented in the Embryo Physics Course, November 23, 2011


Alan Turing not only introduced the idea that instabilities in diffusion-reaction processes could lead to spatial patterns of morphogenesis, but also gave us a model for cell differentiation by symmetry breaking. I show that such a model leads to metasymmetries when multiple steps of differentiation are considered. How the embryo chooses from the vast combinatorics in breaking this metasymmetry is an unsolved problem.




2 responses to “Walking the tightrope: The dilemmas of hierarchical instabilities in Turing’s morphogenesis”

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  1. carlos,sonnenschein@tufts.edu says:

    Hi Richard:
    I went over the slides of this presentation. I find them of great interest because, despite the fact that our lab is not primarily interested in unlocking the secrets of differentiation, but those of carcinogenesis (“development gone awry”), we have proposed a theory one of which premises is that the targets of carcinogens are “tissues” and not a cell (as the somatic mutation theory claims). Separately (by email), I’m sending you PDFs of papers related to the subject.
    I’m looking forward to hear your presentation. If I cannot connect this time, hope that eventually either Ana Soto or myself may be able to present a talk of our own to your group.


  2. Dick Gordon says:

    Dear Carlos,
    I look forward to your papers. The question of tumors as a tissue disease rather than aberrant individual cells is an active one. Note the dialogue at the end of:

    Gordon, R. (2011). Stop breast cancer now! Imagining imaging pathways towards search, destroy, cure and watchful waiting of premetastasis breast cancer [invited]. In: Breast Cancer – A Lobar Disease. Ed.: T. Tot. London, Springer: 167-203.

    You can read this at:

    DropBox: Dick Gordon’s Medical Imaging Papers

    which I’ve shared with you. Certainly, the control of teratocarcinoma cells by normal ones is suggestive:

    Mintz, B. & K. Illmensee (1975). Normal genetically mosaic mice produced from malignant teratocarcinoma cells. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 72, 3585-3589.

    and shows a strong linkage between normal embryogenesis and cancer.

    I didn’t note whether or not you heard my talk of today (Nov. 23), but I’d be willing to repeat it for you and a couple of others who had to miss it and sent regrets. Thanks.
    Yours, -Dick