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

ryo and then spread throughout the entire embryo in varying concentrations. Scientists then began to realize that the fate of embryo cells, that is to say, the type of tissue and organ they are eventually going to develop into, is determined by the concentration of morphogen that they come into contact with. But this information does not answer the specific question as to how proportion is maintained between organs?

The idea for the present research came about when Weizmann Institute scientist Prof. Naama Barkai and her colleagues developed a mathematical model to describe interactions that occur within genetic networks of an embryo.

The data ascertained from this model suggest that the way morphogens spread throughout the embryo in different concentrations is different than previously thought. The team predicts that an inhibitor molecule, which is secreted from a localized source at one side of the embryo and can bind the morphogen, acts as a type of ferry that 'shuttles' the morphogen to the other side. Therefore, the mathematical model suggests that it is the interactions between the two substances that enable the embryo to keep the relative proportion between organs constant, irrespective of its size. Indeed, these predictions have been validated by experiments conducted on frog embryos by the research team.

The importance of the role of these morphogenic substances, as well as their mechanism of action, is evident by the fact that they have been conserved throughout evolution, where different variants can be found to exist in species ranging from worms to fruit flies and up to higher species including humans. Therefore, understanding the processes that govern embryonic cell development could have many implications. For example, it may lead, in the future, to scientists being able to repair injured tissues.


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Contact: Yivsam Azgad
news@weizmann.ac.il
972-893-43856
Weizmann Institute of Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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