The study of organoids, artificially grown cell aggregates with the functionality and small-scale anatomy of real organs, is one of the most active areas of research in biology and biophysics, yet the basic physical origins of their different morphologies remain poorly understood. We propose a mechanistic theory of epithelial shells which resemble small-organoid morphologies. Using a 3D surface tension-based vertex model, we reproduce the characteristic shapes from branched and budded to invaginated structures. We find that the formation of branched morphologies relies strongly on junctional activity, enabling temporary aggregations of topological defects in cell packing. To elucidate our numerical results, we develop an effective elasticity theory, which allows one to estimate the apico-basal polarity from the tissue-scale modulation of cell height. Our work provides a generic interpretation of the observed epithelial shell morphologies, highlighting the role of physical factors such as differential surface tension, cell rearrangements, and tissue growth.
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