Peter French p.french at ARNIE.CFI.UNSW.EDU.AU
Thu Dec 22 17:44:45 EST 1994

Raul Valdes-Perez wrote

Greetings, I am a computer scientist trying to develop systematic methods to 
>detect subtle or complex patterns in cell biological data. 
>For example, let's say that one has a time series image of a cell undergoing
>division, in which the concentration of some protein activation ion is measured
>through fluorescence-ratio imaging.  Let's also say that the ion is
>hypothetically implicated in cell division.  After obtaining the data, the 
>question becomes: is there a pattern in the images, or is it all just "random"?
>I have been working on methods for this and similar problems, but would like
>relate my approach to classical (or modern!) writers on the role and meaning
>of the concept of "pattern" in cell biology.  I am familiar with the concept
>of pattern in developmental biology, in which "pattern" is the body plan
>(collections of fated cells), but there the concept is more static and narrow,
>I suspect.
>So, here's my question:  what author has written penetratingly on what it means
>to look for patterns in cell biology, on what a pattern is, on why one would
>like to find patterns in the first place, and so on?

By coincidence, just yesterday I came across an interesting repeating
pattern whilst looking at some confocal microscopy of mast cells which had
been stimulated to secrete histamine. On staining for actin, during the
secretory event,at 10 minutes I noted the appearance of large numbers of
small cell surface ruffles in an interlocking network pattern. This network
pattern was not random, but in fact was formed of small pentagonal
structures. By 30 min (maximal secretion) the actin-containg cell surface
ruffles were greatly reduced in number, but guess what, they formed a few
very large pentagonal shapes on the surface of the cells (which by now were
well spread)! 

Does anybody know what this might mean? Is there something specific about
the angles of a pentagon that may make it a natural structure for actin
formation? I am not sure how to proceed, so if there are any suggestions
from weird to plausible, please help. Has anyone else seen this? 

Peter French, Centre for Immunology, St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney

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