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Scientists trace molecular origin of proportional development
Date:10/13/2008

CINCINNATI When it comes to embryo formation in the lowly fruit fly, a little molecular messiness actually leads to enhanced developmental precision, according to a study in the Oct. 14 Developmental Cell from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

While the fundamentals of this tiny bug's reproductive biology may seem insignificant, one day they could matter quite a bit to humans. That's because the study provides new information about how cells choose their own fates, especially in maintaining the size relationship and proportionality of body parts during embryonic development, said Jun Ma, Ph.D., a researcher in the divisions of Biomedical Informatics and Developmental Biology at Cincinnati Children's and the study's corresponding author.

"We used the fruit fly in our study to trace the molecular origin of where body proportionality comes from, directly affecting how we think about precision control mechanisms during development," Dr. Ma said. "This new information is a basic, but very important, step. Although humans are far more complex, this could one day help us understand how two different-sized babies with different mothers providing varied environmental and genetic influences are born alike, with properly sized heads and limbs."

Besides discovering a scientific platform that will advance studies into precise, or normal, development, Dr. Ma and colleagues hope their knowledge will facilitate research into abnormal development, like certain types of birth defects.

Although fruit flies have miniscule brains and dine on rotten fruit, genetically the species has quite a bit in common with humans a concept known as evolutionary conservation. This relationship has long made the insect a model for studying body patterning in animals.

Dr. Ma's team probed how a gene transcription regulatory protein called Bicoid turns on another gene, known as Hunchback. Hunchback instructs the embryo's anterior
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Contact: Nick Miller
nicholas.miller@cchmc.org
513-803-6035
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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