Biology Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for biology researchers, academics, and students. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm wondering what makes cells to divide (and stop) in such a way that they make our hands the shape that our hands are...

share|improve this question
with hands, there is cell division initially to give rise to a palm bud (fingers not separate). Subsequently, the cells between the fingers (digits) die by apoptosis to give hand its shape. – WYSIWYG Jul 26 '13 at 2:24
That is exactly what is studied in developmental biology, which is a huge field of research. – Bitwise Jul 26 '13 at 15:46
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Hands are complicated and the genetic machinery behind their shape doubly so.

It's easier to figure out worm segments first, and then work up from there. An egg has head/tail information encoded in it even before fertilization: see here

You can imagine the first or second cell division would give a 'head' cell with higher concentration of head polarity transcription factors. These transcription factors switch on other regulatory genes, and the complexity works upwards from there. For more information about how worms and other segmented animals work out what goes where see Hox genes. The sad truth is that most of how this is done is unknown or not well understood.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.