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Self-correcting' mechanism recognizes, repairs facial abnormalities

Boston — A recent report reveals that researchers have discovered a mechanism by which developing organisms recognize and repair head and facial abnormalities.

This is the first time that this kind of process has been analyzed through mathematical modeling, researchers say.

Scientists from Tufts University showed that cell groups can assess their shape and position in relationship to other organs, and also perform the required movements and remodeling functions in order to compensate for important abnormalities in patterns, Medical News Today reports.

"We have found that when we created defects in the face experimentally, facial structures move around in various ways and mostly end up in their correct positions,” said Michael Levin, Ph.D., director, Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology, Tufts University School of Arts and Sciences. “This suggests that what the genome encodes ultimately is a set of dynamic, flexible behaviors by which the cells are able to make adjustments to build specific complex structures.”

Earlier research had found self-correcting mechanisms in some embryonic processes, but not the face. These had not been analyzed mathematically to study the precise dynamics of the corrective process, Medical News Today reports.

The study investigators induced craniofacial defects in frog embryos and then analyzed changes of the craniofacial structures such as eyes, jaws, otic capsules and so on in terms of their shape and position.

The study showed that the abnormalities, particularly in the jaws and branchial arches, were reduced as the tadpoles aged, and eye and nose tissue became more normal over time.

The team noticed that in tadpoles with severe abnormalities, a major shift occurred in the facial structures to repair these malformations, as if the system was able to detect and correct deviations.

"Such understanding would have huge implications not only for repairing birth defects, but also for other areas of systems biology and complexity science,” Dr. Levin said.

The study was published in the May issue of Developmental Dynamics.

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