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Study sheds light on genetic 'clock' in embryonic cells
Date:11/13/2012

inter-cellular signaling pathway blocked, however, the oscillations were no longer synchronized among neighboring cells. The cellular clocks were still ticking, in other words, but not in unison. This finding confirms that the Notch pathway serves to coordinate timing among cells a crucial role, since the cells must act in concert in order to form vertebrae.

By observing normal zebrafish embryos, the researchers were also able to show that cells desynchronize their oscillations while performing cellular division, then later resynchronize with their neighbors as they proceed collectively to form vertebrae.

"In humans, defects in Notch signaling are associated with congenital developmental disorders called spondylocostal dysostosis, that are typified by scoliosis and trunk dwarfism caused by malformed ribs and vertebrae," Amacher notes. "Studies such as ours may provide insight into potential therapies for human disease. It is likely that many cells in our bodies - stem cells, cancer cells - have similar molecular oscillators that regulate response to environmental signals. By unraveling such molecular clocks, we can understand how to modify them and thus change the number of oscillating cells that respond to differentiating signals, providing tremendous insight for studies in stem cell and cancer biology and tissue engineering."

"The formation of the vertebral column is very important, because everything follows from that" in the development of vertebrates, Franois adds. A physicist, he developed the computer tools used to analyze video footage of the zebrafish embryos. Francois's research focuses on the modeling of physical properties of gene networks and their evolution a field that has emerged at the nexus of biology and physics in recent years, following sequencing of the human genome and rapid growth in scientists' understanding of the processes inside cells.


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Contact: Chris Chipello
christopher.chipello@mcgill.ca
514-398-4201
McGill University
Source:Eurekalert

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