Over the past 2.5 years, I have been working with Corey O’Hern at Yale, a theoretical physicist who works on soft matter, to try to make sense of the complex 3D tissue morphologies we see in the mesophyll tissue in flowers (mostly petals). Thankfully–and perfectly timed!–a grant to the U.S. National Science Foundation has been recommended for funding.
The mesophyll–the tissue between the epidermal layers in leaves and flowers–is a critically important yet poorly studied tissue. In leaves, this tissue is responsible for photosynthesis, but in flowers the mesophyll likely performs a biomechanical role in support.
The mesophyll is unique compared to most other tissues because it is composed of both cells and the airspace between the cells, both of which are critical to mesophyll function. Furthermore, mesophyll is very diverse among species, but it develops from similar initial starting points.
This new grant from NSF will enable us to characterize the 3D development of the mesophyll tissue and extend a new 2D theoretical model of deformable particles to 3D. By combining empirical measurements and modeling, this work will provide an unprecedent view of the mesophyll structure and development and provide insights into ways of synthesizing novel materials with tunable properties.