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The Braybrook Group at MCDB UCLA studies the generation of form in walled organisms.

How are shapes physically grown and patterned in organisms? While we have accumulated volumes of knowledge on the genes and hormones which underly such processes, we still know little about how these instructions a physically enacted- and growth is ultimately a physical process. Our research is aimed at understanding how shapes are physically established and grown in walled organisms. The presence of a cell wall in multi-cellular organisms produces two major physical limits to growth: first, the encasement of each cell in a cell wall necessitates changing the wall material in order to generate and alter shape; second, cell walls serve to connect each cell to its neighbours both within and across tissue layers requiring physical growth co-ordination at supra-cellular levels.

We take a systems level view by aiming to understand shape growth at cell, tissue and organ levels. We apply and develop quantitative methods, utilise the best biological system to answer our question, and constantly look both forwards and backwards to identify key concepts and tools in the field.  Our transdisciplinary approach includes development, plant physiology, cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, materials science, and physics.

For a plant and algal cells, the cell wall is the main structural element, controlling the shape and growth of the cell and therefore tissue as a whole. Recent work in plants has correlated key aspects of organ growth and shape generation, in plants, with mechanical properties of tissues and cell walls. Our Team has two main goals: 1) to understand the mechanics of shape growth in plants and algae, and 2) to understand the cell wall as a dynamic composite material.

Extreme anisotropic growth exhibited in dark grown seedlings of Arabidopsis thaliana. What makes them grow 'up' instead of 'out'?
Extreme anisotropic growth exhibited in dark grown seedlings of Arabidopsis thaliana. What makes them grow ‘up’ instead of ‘out’?

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