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Interface Focus. 2012 Aug 6;2(4):433-50. doi: 10.1098/rsfs.2011.0122. Epub 2012 Feb 15.

Towards an integrated experimental-theoretical approach for assessing the mechanistic basis of hair and feather morphogenesis.

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Department of Mathematics/Maxwell Institute for Mathematical Sciences , Heriot-Watt University , Edinburgh EH14 4AS , UK.


In his seminal 1952 paper, 'The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis', Alan Turing lays down a milestone in the application of theoretical approaches to understand complex biological processes. His deceptively simple demonstration that a system of reacting and diffusing chemicals could, under certain conditions, generate spatial patterning out of homogeneity provided an elegant solution to the problem of how one of nature's most intricate events occurs: the emergence of structure and form in the developing embryo. The molecular revolution that has taken place during the six decades following this landmark publication has now placed this generation of theoreticians and biologists in an excellent position to rigorously test the theory and, encouragingly, a number of systems have emerged that appear to conform to some of Turing's fundamental ideas. In this paper, we describe the history and more recent integration between experiment and theory in one of the key models for understanding pattern formation: the emergence of feathers and hair in the skins of birds and mammals.


Turing patterns; activator–inhibitor; feather buds and hair follicles; morphogenesis; reaction–diffusion; skin patterning

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