So recently scientists have discovered a new three dimensional shape. The image above is two of them together.
Each scutoid individually is best described as the following: Imagine a pentagonal column, one that has five sides and two faces that are pentagons. Then picture if someone opened a zipper along one of the edges partway, making it look like part of the shape was cut at an angle. This leaves one end of the column as a pentagon and another as a hexagon, and gives us a new triangular face as well.
The scutoid gets its name from the scutellum, which is a triangular part of a beetle’s shell. Apologies for the grainy image.
Some of our epithelial cells, which are found one the outer layer of the skin and in the lining of our organs, are in the shape of scutoids. Previously, they were thought to only be in the form of columns or having a shape similar to an incomplete prism, called a frustum (shown above in upper right corner). But the discovery of the scutoid is making it clearer as to how our cells can organize themselves, a feat that, given our bodies’ complexity, is quite amazing.
Taking the form of scutoids (among other shapes), our cells are able to pack themselves closer together, which minimizes energy consumption and increases stability of the tissue. Cells must use energy to maintain the borders between each other, but of course, they want to use as little as possible. This becomes harder as tissue becomes more curved to make our bodies’ unique shapes. By becoming scutoid-shaped, epithelial cells are able to decrease the lengths of contact between one another while still keeping an efficient and stable organization.
Understanding how cells form functioning and orderly structures can help us advance in making artificial tissue and organs. We aren’t quite there yet, but this certainly is a good advancement. Just prepare yourself for future geometry classes where you have to find the volume and surface area of these bad boys.