The Scutoid Has Landed

Just a short post about something that happened recently which relates to my chosen keyword geometric. A paper written by Pedro Gómez-Gálvez and Pablo Vicente-Munuera was published in Nature Communications in July 2018 introducing a new geometric shape that is linked to the metamorphosis of tissue cells during organ development. This shape is called a Scutoid*.


“As animals develop, tissue bending contributes to shape the organs into complex three-dimensional structures. However, the architecture and packing of curved epithelia remains largely unknown. Here we show by means of mathematical modelling that cells in bent epithelia can undergo intercalations along the apico-basal axis. This phenomenon forces cells to have different neighbours in their basal and apical surfaces. As a consequence, epithelial cells adopt a novel shape that we term “scutoid”.” (Gómez-Gálvez, P. et. al. 2018)

Nature has found a way to conserve energy and pack cells more efficiently, and we are only now uncovering this phenomenon. While the science of the scutoid falls outside of my main stream of research, I do find it fascinating that yet again geometry plays a major role in nature as much as it does in mathematics. It is this blending of science and the creativity of nature that arises time and time again. The more I read about geometry the more I feel that it links everything–from art and design to the fabric of living creatures and the universe itself.

Gómez-Gálvez and Vicente-Munuera also write:

“In addition to this fundamental aspect of morphogenesis, the ability to engineer tissues and organs in future critically relies on the ability to understand, and then control, the 3D organization of cells.” (Gómez-Gálvez, P. et. al. 2018)

Discovering this deeper level of our biology will no doubt have an impact on how effectively and efficiently we approach medical and scientific problems in the future. The new shape could also play a role in art and design. 


Pedro Gómez-Gálvez, Pablo Vicente-Munuera, Antonio Tagua, Cristina Forja, Ana M. Castro, Marta Letrán, Andrea Valencia-Expósito, Clara Grima, Marina Bermúdez-Gallardo, Óscar Serrano-Pérez-Higueras, Florencia Cavodeassi, Sol Sotillos, María D. Martín-Bermudo, Alberto Márquez, Javier Buceta, Luis M. Escudero (2018): Scutoids are a geometrical solution to three-dimensional packing of epithelia. ( Nature Communications, 2018.

* According to Science Daily (28th July 2018), the new shape was labelled “Scutoid” because of its resemblance to the scutellum, the posterior part of an insect thorax or midsection. (


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