Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Better Shape Up

The inner pressure of developing cells controls how their neighbours behave to shape the final tissue

02 January 2021

Better Shape Up

There’s a lot going on during development as cells multiply and specialise to build a whole organism containing many different tissues. Although researchers have studied development for thousands of years since the Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle first observed how chicks grow inside eggs, we still know little about how all the cells of a developing embryo affect each other as they grow and jostle for space. These images are 3-D computer reconstructions of a developing fruit fly ovary (egg chamber), created from observations of real ovaries, with different types of cells highlighted in different colours. Using a technique known as atomic force microscopy, which carefully ‘pokes’ individual cells to measure the pressure inside them, researchers have discovered how neighbouring cells push against each other to help shape the final structure. Similar forces are likely to be at work in all living tissues and organs as they grow and organise.

Written by Kat Arney

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