Piero Scaruffi(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"
Genes, obviously, do not carry all the information needed for an organism to develop.
How do cells of many different kinds come to occupy the "right" position in space? How do brain cells grow in the brain rather than, say, below the armpit? The phenomenon is even more mysterious because we now know that the early embryos of many animals, from insects to mammals, exhibit the same spatial pattern of activity of the same group of genes, before a morphological structure is created.
A body is shaped by the orderly movement of billions of cells to the locations that specify their role. Cells are not genetically programmed to perform a specific role, but during development they become specialist. It appears that what a cell will do for the rest of its life depends on where its journey ends. "Growth" is this mass migration of cells towards an unknown destination that will determine their future.
"Pattern formation" is the mechanism by which cells in different parts of a developing organism acquire different fates. “Pattern formation” constitutes the main concern of Developmental Biology. Today, we believe that an organism is made from a very large number of autonomous cells which can interact among each other and that the whole functional organism "emerges" (i.e., arises) from local interaction of cells.
Little is known about the physical process that allows this to happen, but cells in the embryo appear to be able to regulate their adhesion to surfaces and to other cells and they appear to do this to change shape or move.
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