Differing growth rates between the mesentery and gut tube cause predictable looping patterns of gut tubes in vertebrates, according to recent findings.
A scientific article published in the Aug. 4, 2011, issue of the journal Nature states that the patterns observed in animals including chicks, quails, finches, and mice can be devised through a mathematic theory and a computational model. The number and size of loops can be predicted on the basis of the geometry, relative growth rates, and mechanical properties of the tissues.
In addition, the general pattern can be reproduced by sewing a rubber tube to the edge of a stretched latex sheet.
The study was conducted by researchers with Harvard University. Officials from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences announced Aug. 10 that the findings could be used to improve understanding of how the gut has evolved to accommodate changes in diet. The research team found that the gut tube grows uniformly faster than the mesentery to which it is attached. The mesentery stretches as the gut is compressed, causing the gut tube to buckle and coil.
"The gut coils because when the mesentery and the gut tube grow at different rates while remaining attached, coiling is the only possible result," Thierry Savin, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate, said in the school's announcement.
The article, "On the growth and form of the gut," is available in Nature (2011;476:57-62).