The development of melanocytes – the cells that give colour to our skin – is a complicated process. Their growth is controlled by a network of many different genes that can switch on and off at different times, as well as triggering others within the network in a cascade of gene activity. By discovering and mapping out the relationships between these genes, scientists hope to reveal how faults in the system can lead to diseases such as melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. Here they’re studying melanocyte development in zebrafish embryos, using colourful dyes to stain particular active genes in cells. Taking ‘snapshots’ at different times of development can gradually build up a picture of the genes responsible for a melanocyte: from stem cell to fully-functioning mature cell.
Written by Manisha Lalloo
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