The epithelium is tissue formed of cells organized in layers. It serves covering, secretory and… [+] protective functions. Pictured here is a typical depiction of epithelial cells. But are they really shaped this way? (Photo by: QAI Publishing/UIG via Getty Images)
The scutoid of trust.
A scutoid peg in a round hole.
Bizarre love scutoid.
The word scutoid hasn’t quite reached everyday lexicon as a shape yet because it is a really, really new shape. As described by a publication in Nature Communications entitled “Scutoids are a geometrical solution to three-dimensional packing of epithelia“, a team from the Universidad de Sevilla, Campus Universidad Pablo de Olavide, and Lehigh University discovered and named a new shape.
Where can you find this shape? Look at yourself. No, your entire body is probably not shaped like a scutoid. But parts of you may be. Many, many parts. Many very very small parts called epithelial cells, the cells that help form the outer surface of your skin and line the insides of your organs such as your intestines.
Epithelial cells form protective barriers and thus must stay tightly packed together to not allow gaps and to communicate with each other. Traditional three-dimensional shapes such as columns or cubes may not permit the cells to remain tightly beside each other when an epithelial layer is curved, because, as you know, your skin and your organs are not completely flat unless you are a cartoon character.
Therefore, the team developed computational models of epithelial layers to determine the cell shapes that would allow close packing when the surfaces are curved. The result was a new shape that they ended naming the scutoid, pron