Introducing your new favourite shape, the scutoid!

Turns out that this 'twisted prism' is the shape of choice for cells that hold your body together
scutoid skin Do you know the secret shape of your skin? You'll be surprised! (© Deyangeorgiev | Dreamstime.com)


What is your favourite shape? Square? Triangle? Circle?

Perhaps you have more distinguished tastes and fancy yourself more of a parallelogram or hexagon person?

But in truth? You're none of those things. According the researchers at the University of Seville in Spain, you're a scutoid through and through. It's the shape of your own cells. Literally! And what does it look like? It's described as a 'twisted prism'. Though there are several types of scutoids, they look something like these guys.

scutoid

(University of Seville)

Why do they look like that? What do they do, exactly? We're glad you asked!

The shape of the skin you're in

To be precise, the scutoid is the shape of the cells found in your epithelial tissue. If you're a really keen student of biology, you might recognize 'epi-' from the word 'epidermis' and guess where these cells are found. Your skin!

Epithelial tissue is one of the four types of animal tissues—along with connective, muscle, and nervous. It forms the outer and inner layers of our skin, wrapping and protecting all of the tender, important stuff that is found within. And it is also used to cover organs and to make blood vessels and the other tubes within the body. So pretty important stuff!

A scutoid might look a bit (or a lot) weird at first glance. But, it is actually an excellent sort of shape to smoosh together to form a strong barrier against the outside world.

Like this:

scutoid epithelium

(Wikimedia Commons)

The shape of the future?

Now that scutoids are accepted as their own category of geometric shape, can we expect to see them elsewhere in our lives? It's tough to say, for sure. But with biomimetics (using natural structures and behaviour to inspire design) being such a growing field, you can bet that scientists and engineers will be looking to the shape a lot as way to make all sorts of things.

Scutoid-shaped children's building blocks anyone?


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