Issue compiled and edited by Michael Levin, Amar Klar and Ann Ramsdell
Many organisms exhibit conspicuous asymmetry – a consistent difference in anatomy on the left and right of a midline. Even outwardly bilaterally-symmetric animals, such as humans, possess stereotypical left-right asymmetries of the shape, placement and function of internal organs such as the heart, viscera and brain. These asymmetries arise during embryogenesis, and raise profound questions in evolutionary, developmental, and cell biology. How do embryos reliably tell their left from their right, when neither macroscopic physical laws nor genetic networks can uniquely specify chirality? What are the implications of being asymmetric for the evolution, physiology and behaviour of an individual and a population? How can understanding these patterns aid biomedical research into birth defects, cancer and immune response, which exhibit puzzling asymmetries in their manifestation?
This theme issue contains the latest research on the topic of left-right asymmetry, covering both plants and animals, and addressing the problem at the molecular, cellular, organismal and ecological levels. Together, the reviews and novel data presented in this issue reveal a number of novel aspects of asymmetry.
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