Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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A molecular 'adhesion code' orchestrates the organisation of developing tissues

24 November 2020

Sticky Beginnings

Order arises from chaos inside this swirling zebrafish embryo – a process called morphogenesis shapes developing tissues and early organs as green and red-coloured cells jostle into place. Understanding how this happens – seeing through the bustle to the coordination underneath –researchers examined how cells interact. They found embryonic cells produce different combinations of ‘sticky’ molecules. Pattern-making proteins called morphogens help to bring similarly adhesive cells close together while pulling away from others – a bit like a tug of war (although 100,000 times smaller). Attraction between similar cells allows them to self-organise, separating into different domains and, later, tissues. This ‘adhesion code’ helps to define the zebrafish’s spine at the centre of the embryo toward the end of the video. Researchers hope to probe similar design principles in human cells, towards creating artificial tissues for transplant and research.

Written by John Ankers

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