Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Zipped Flies
28 July 2015

Zipped Flies

Countless man-made designs are inspired by biology, so it’s refreshing to see one of the world’s most widely used inventions has been hard at work inside living tissues all along. Dorsal closure occurs in fruit fly embryos, where tissue joins together over internal organs during development. This simulation shows how the process works – uncannily like a zip fastener. Researchers used a technique called electron tomography to capture cross-section images from fruit fly embryos, assembling them into a 3D reconstruction. Pictured from different angles, green- and brown-coloured cells are extending protrusions, like the teeth in a zip, which pull the 'seams' of the tissue together and gradually seal up the hole. Dorsal closure has parallels in human tissue development, which can go awry leading to conditions like spina bifida. Techniques like electron tomography could revolutionise our understanding of the biology of such conditions while also uncovering other elegant microscopic mechanisms.

Written by John Ankers

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