Turing’s idea was that activating and in inhibiting substances could through diffusion produce waves of activity that could pattern biological structures.
Now a team working in Barcelona has shown that a Turing network involving a diffusible activating protein (bone morphogenetic protein) and the signalling protein Wnt periodically turn on and off the transcription factor Sox9 to create the primordial digits. The problem of biological form is perhaps the most profound scientific question in existence. It is remarkable that, having been responsible for the basic logical framework of the computer and playing a crucial role in the war as a Bletchley code breaker, Turing should currently be so influential in biology over 70 years after his death. His work on pattern-formation features in Nanoscience: Giants of the Infinitesimal.
Science, 1 August 2014