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Skin Cells Make Use of Geographic Co-Ordinates to Reach Their Destination

Scientists at the Stanford University have discovered that skin cells make use of the three geographic coordinates: latitude// , longitude and altitude to reach their destined place in the body.

Researchers also think that this plays an important role in directing the embryonic and non differentiated cells. ‘There is a logic to the body that we didn't understand before,’ said John Rinn, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in the laboratory of Howard Chang, MD, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology. ‘Our skin is actively maintaining itself throughout our life, and these 'address codes' help the cells know how to respond appropriately.’ Rinn is the first author of the research, which is published in the current issue of Public Library of Science-Genetics. Until now it's been a mystery as to how adult skin, which consists of basically the same components all over the body, knows to grow hair in some areas like the scalp, while manufacturing sweat glands, calluses and fingerprint whorls in others.

In 1969, well-known developmental biologist Lewis Wolpert authored a famous treatise that described two possible ways for cells to know where they are in the body: Either they infer their location and adjust their behavior based on interactions with nearby cells, or they deduce their ‘positional identity’ through the use of some type of coordinate system. The findings from the new Stanford study bolster the second possibility. The scientists analyzed the gene-expression profiles of adult fibroblasts from more than 40 areas of the body. They found about 400 genes whose expression patterns varied with the cells' original location. Those from the top half of the body - arms, head and chest, for example - shared expression patterns that were markedly different from the patterns shared among cells from the bottom part of the body, such as the legs and feet.

Similar patterns existed among cells originating close to or far from the center of the body, and tho
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