Images Courtesy of Donald E. Ingber
 Cell shape and function, such as directional motility, can be controlled by culturing individual cells on µm-sized extracellular matrix islands of defined geometry created using microfabrication techniques. New motile processes, stained for F-actin (green), extend preferentially from the corners when the cell is stimulated to grow by soluble mitogens. The nucleus is stained blue.

A theory has only the alternatives of being wrong or right. A model has a third possibility: It may be right but irrelevant.

--Manfred Eigen1

When molecular biology techniques propelled reductionism to a new height 30 years ago, scientists far and wide began isolating cellular parts. During that time, researchers described the cell as a membrane packed with protoplasm or a balloon filled with molasses, its contents moving around randomly. The idea that the cell was a highly structured, three- dimensional system was a notion that only...

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