Order out of Disorder


These days, biologists seems steeped in researching the pluripotentiality of stem cells. How do cells become who they are? How do they find their proper place within the human ecosystem?


A major focus in this research centers around self-regulation. Cells are amazingly self-organizing and self-regulating. Such a phenomenon  is part matter, part mystery. There’s no ‘brain’ or ‘cognitive’ master of ceremonies. What more, multiple conditions influence the cellular matrix, flying in the face of genetic determinism. All parties act and adapt to changing conditions moment-by-moment, both within and outside the porous cell walls.


What scientists seem to agree on is that the formation of proteins is a result of spontaneous folding patterns. Amino acid chains undergo multiple transitional patterns in building the three dimensional proteins that become the cellular architecture. Folding is considered a state of ‘disorder’ (Rose et al 2006).  This suggests that the process is a bit of improvisational trial-and-error in the biology of destiny.


I am struck (dumbstruck, in fact) by the idea of the fold as a state of ‘disorder,’ a necessary state of affairs that precedes orderly assembly. Put a banana in a blender, and you might think such mush couldn’t possibly revert to become a whole banana again. But, put cells in a blender and, left alone, the cytoplasm shows an amazing capacity to self-organize (reassemble) itself (Parry 2020). Fantastic! Something about the interactive cooperation of elements in movement that seems to trigger the sequencing of amino acids into forming peptide chains that become working proteins. From single cell to systems level, embryonic movement dynamics can create a body plan without cognitive drive.


The bottom line message lies in the vitality of cooperation. Cooperativity is a non-hierarchical organizing principles of self-regulation (Creighton 1995; Deglincerti et al 2016) . There’s no master minder.  How things come into being, shape themselves and find their proper place requires cooperation. Cooperativity meets disorder and brings about order under energetically charged milieu of cellular kinetics. The folding and unfolding of this spatial choreography of tightly coordinated actions happens very rapidly (Deglincerti et al 2016). These scientific models of self-generation point to highly dynamic integration of processes involving the polarity of the cell, signal sensing, and other complex patterning processes that create a self-organizing ecosystem in the embryo.


In the practice of Human Origami, a fold is a place of infinite inquiry for movement investigation. What all happens when a mover ‘enters’ a fold through becoming aware of it – the direction, speed, dynamics, spatiality – changing constantly as awareness travels along the edges of the fold. What we know as up/down, front/back, side-side, in-out is the result of cellular colonies that meet, mingle and morphologize in micro-patterning cooperativity. This is an experience that is more than about form, space, and place, but rather about the cooperation that happens that renders the pathways and shapes possible.  Cells are not homogeneous from the start, nor are the environments static. Human Origami cooperativity is solo, group and field of consciousness in action – science coming alive in movement play.



Creighton, TE. Protein Folding – An unfolding story. Current Biology 1995, 5(4).

Deglincerti A, Etoc F, Zeehan Ozair M, Brivanlou AH. (2016). Self-organization of spatial patterning in human embryonic stem cells. Current Topics in Developmental Biology 116:99-113

Parry, W. Miraculous self-organization after scrambling:Unscrambled Eggs: Self-Organization Restores Cells’ Order. Quanta  January 2, 2020. https://www.quantamagazine.org/unscrambled-eggs-self-organization-restores-cells-order-20200102/

Rose GD, Flaming PJ, et al. (2006). Out of disorder – ORDER: A backbone-based theory of protein folding PNAS 103(45): `6623-33.