Morphogenesis (from the Greek morphê shape and genesis creation, literally "the generation of form") is the biological process that causes a cell, tissue or organism to develop its shape. It is one of three fundamental aspects of developmental biology along with the control of tissue growth and patterning of cellular differentiation.
The process controls the organized spatial distribution of cells during the embryonic development of an organism. Morphogenesis can take place also in a mature organism, such as in the normal maintenance of tissue by stem cells or in regeneration of tissues after damage. Cancer is an example of highly abnormal and pathological tissue morphogenesis. Morphogenesis also describes the development of unicellular life forms that do not have an embryonic stage in their life cycle. Morphogenesis is essential for the evolution of new forms.
Morphogenesis is a mechanical process involving forces that generate mechanical stress, strain, and movement of cells, and can be induced by genetic programs according to the spatial patterning of cells within tissues. Abnormal morphogenesis is called dysmorphogenesis.