The art of origami can turn a simple sheet of paper into a beautiful bird. Substitute paper for cells and a developing embryo creates an entire nervous system. During development a sheet of cells rolls up and fuses together to form a tube, the neural tube, which goes on to become the brain and spinal cord. As the tube takes shape, cells at the edges of the sheet reach out towards each other using protrusions called filopodia and ruffles. This is seen here in a mouse embryo using electron microscopy. Researchers asked whether these protrusions are essential for neural tube formation. Mutant mice lacking the proteins needed to make these protrusions were unable to complete closure of the tube, resulting in neural tube defects. In humans, one in every thousand babies are born with such defects, including spina bifida. These findings hint at what might be going wrong.
Written by Lux Fatimathas
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.