Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How do leopards get their spots?

Readers of this blog will probably be familiar with Alan Turing the father of the modern computer, WWII code-breaker and pioneer of artificial intelligence. You may therefore be surprised to learn that he was also a groundbreaking biologist.
   Researchers at King’s College London found the interaction between two morphogens control how mice get ridge patterns in their mouths, exactly as Alan Turing predicted in  his 1952 paper The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis. Turing proposed that animals’ stripes and spots are caused by the interaction of a pair of chemicals,  he called "morphogens." One of the chemicals, he suggested, triggered cell activity, while the other reduced it. The way in which they interact dictated where cells grew, creating the patterns on the fur of animals.
    It seems Turing's genius had no limits.