Developmental Scaffolding

Franco Giorgi, Luis Emilio Bruni

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review

6 Citationer (Scopus)


The concept of scaffolding has wide resonance in several scientific fields.
Here we attempt to adopt it for the study of development. In this perspective, the embryo is conceived as an integral whole, comprised of several hierarchical modules as in a recurrent circularity of emerging patterns. Within the developmental hierarchy, each module yields an inter-level relationship that makes it possible for the scaffolding to mediate the production of selectable variations. Awide range of genetic, cellular and morphological mechanisms allows the scaffolding to integrate these modular variations into a functionally coordinate unit. A genetic scaffolding accounts for the inherited invariance of pattern formation during the embryo’s growth. At higher level, cells behave as agents endowed with the capacity to interpret any scaffolding variation as signs. The full hierarchy of a multi-level scaffolding is eventually attained when the embryo acquires the capacity to impose a number of developmental constraints on its constituting parts in a top-down direction. The acquisition of this capacity allows a semiotic threshold to emerge between the living cellular world and the underlying nonliving molecular world. As this boundary is gradually defined during development, cells enter into new functional relationships, while, at the same time, are relieved from their physical determinism. The resulting constraints can thus become the driving forces that upgrade embryonic scaffolding from the simple molecular signalling to the complexity of sign recognition proper of a cellular community. In this semiotic perspective, the apparent goal directness of any developmental strategy should no longer be accounted for by a predetermined genetic program, but by the gradual definition of the relationships selected amongst the ones historically explored.
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)173-189
Antal sider17
StatusUdgivet - 27 mar. 2015

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