Federico C 27 may 2008 (EDT)
As far as I have understood the project, we are trying to artificially reproduce Turing patterns; a kind of patterns that could be generated from a homogeneous media, that have been studied extensively, reproduced chemically and that are thought to have an important role in some process of morphogenesis.
Apparently some naturally occurring patterns seem to match and resemble Turing patterns, such as those seen in the organization of trychomes in Arabidopsis thaliana’s leafs or the jaguar spots, yet it’s still controversial whether or not they are actually that kind of patterns for the genetic network that underlies its formation is unknown.
While we could analyze the variation in naturally occurring patterns and dwell into the genetics of an organism (basically, hammering the organism by knocking out genes), a different approach to the problem; the construction of synthetic networks that produce patterns in organisms that previously didn’t have them, might to be an insightful and refreshing alternative.
Our synthetic devise may not resemble the natural one and might pale in comparison, yet its successful construction would allow us to establish whether or not the basic elements necessary for the process are complete and well understood and even reveal what would be needed for cells to generate complex patterns.