Surface tension determines tissue shape and growth kinetics

The collective self-organization of cells into three-dimensional structures can give rise to emergent physical properties such as fluid behavior. Here, we demonstrate that tissues growing on curved surfaces develop shapes with outer boundaries of constant mean curvature, similar to the energy minimizing forms of liquids wetting a surface. The amount of tissue formed depends on the shape of the substrate, with more tissue being deposited on highly concave surfaces, indicating a mechano-biological feedback mechanism. Inhibiting cell-contractility further revealed that active cellular forces are essential for generating sufficient surface stresses for the liquid-like behavior and growth of the tissue. This suggests that the mechanical signaling between cells and their physical environment, along with the continuous reorganization of cells and matrix is a key principle for the emergence of tissue shape.

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