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Fluid mechanics and biological development

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Human conception, indeed fertilization in general, takes place in a fluid, but what role does fluid dynamics have during the subsequent development of an organism? It is becoming increasingly clear that the number of genes in the genome of a typical organism is not sufficient to specify the minutiae of all features of its ontogeny. Instead, genetics often acts as a choreographer, guiding development but leaving some aspects to be controlled by physical and chemical means. Fluids are ubiquitous in biological systems, so it is not surprising that fluid dynamics should play an important role in the physical and chemical processes shaping ontogeny. However, only in a few cases have the strands been teased apart to see exactly how fluid forces operate to guide development. We survey instances in which the hand of fluid dynamics in developmental biology is acknowledged, both in human development and within a wider biological context, together with some in which fluid dynamics is notable but whose workings have yet to be understood, and we provide a perspective on possible avenues for future research.

This talk is part of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Flows (IEEF) series.

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