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Weizmann Institute scientists discover how an injured embryo can regenerate itself
Date:6/26/2008

More than 80 years have passed since the German scientist Hans Spemann conducted his famous experiment that laid the foundations for the field of embryonic development. After dividing a salamander embryo in half, Spemann noticed that one half specifically, the half that gives rise to the salamander's 'belly' (ventral) starts to wither away. However, the other 'back' (dorsal) half that develops into its head, brain and spinal cord, continues to grow, regenerating the missing belly half and develops into a complete, though be it smaller, fully functional embryo. Spemann then conducted another experiment, where this time, he removed a few cells from the back half of one embryo and transplanted them into the belly half of a different embryo. To his surprise, this gave rise to a Siamese twin embryo where an extra head was generated from the transplanted cells. Moreover, although the resulting embryo was smaller than normal, all its tissues and organs developed in the right proportions irrespective of its size, and functioned properly. For this work, Spemann received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1935.

But how does this happen? How exactly is the half embryo able to maintain its tissues and organs in the correct proportions despite being smaller than a normal sized embryo?

Despite many years of research, this question has remained unanswered until now. More than 80 years since Spemann's classic experiment, Profs. Naama Barkai, Benny Shilo and research student Danny Ben-Zvi of the Weizmann Institute of Science's Molecular Genetics Department, together with Prof. Abraham Fainsod of the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine, Jerusalem, have finally discovered the mechanisms involved.

Previous studies have shown that the growth and development of cells and organs within the embryo is somehow linked to a special group of substances called morphogens. These morphogens are produced in one particular area within the emb
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Contact: Yivsam Azgad
news@weizmann.ac.il
972-893-43856
Weizmann Institute of Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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Weizmann Institute scientists discover how an injured embryo can regenerate itself
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