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Feedback Loop Governing Ovarian Development Unraveled

In a study to be published in the August 27 Advance Online issue of the journal Nature, the signals in feedback loop governing ovarian development have been unraveled by// scientists at NYU School of Medicine. Feedback loops are abound in biology and are not well understood. They are essential as they enable an organ such as the liver to detect if it is injured, ascertain if it is growing and developing normally, and if it needs to regenerate itself. When such loops derail, cancer and other diseases can arise.

"I think our study has indeed important implications that extend beyond understanding of how a gonad such as the ovary develops," explains Dr. Ruth Lehmann, Ph.D., Julius Raynes Professor of Developmental Genetics and Howard Hughes Medical Investigator. "In every organ, may it be a gonad, a liver, or a thymus, different tissues contribute to the organ, and the growth of the different tissues has to be coordinated both during normal development and during regeneration."

Tapping into that kind of powerful feedback loop could help treat many kinds of disorders and show how the power of stem cells could be harnessed to help organs call different cell types into action and regenerate, the researchers said. Stem cells are cells that have not yet specialized and can develop into any number of different cell types. They also have the remarkable ability to self-renew indefinitely.

The organism studied is one that does not enjoy much public appreciation but is favored in many genetics labs: Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly. Dr. Lehmann and post-doctoral fellow Lilach Gilboa, Ph.D., decoded the process in the developing fruit fly ovary that allows the ovary to monitor the number of germ cells it contains and to correct that number if the need arises. Germ cells are cells that give rise to either sperm or egg and can ultimately give rise to a new organism and all the cells that an organism needs.

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