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Dev Cell. 2019 Oct 21;51(2):135-144. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2019.10.002.

Probing the Functional Role of Physical Motion in Development.

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Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany; Center for Systems Biology Dresden, Germany, Germany; Cluster of Excellence, Physics of Life, TU Dresden, Dresden, Germany. Electronic address:


Spatiotemporal organization during development has frequently been proposed to be explainable by reaction-transport models, where biochemical reactions couple to physical motion. However, whereas genetic tools allow causality of molecular players to be dissected via perturbation experiments, the functional role of physical transport processes, such as diffusion and cytoplasmic streaming, frequently remains untestable. This Perspective explores the challenges of validating reaction-transport hypotheses and highlights new opportunities provided by perturbation approaches that specifically target physical transport mechanisms. Using these methods, experimental physics may begin to catch up with molecular biology and find ways to test roles of diffusion and flows in development.

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