Understanding more about the role of the nodal signalling pathway during embryo development
Thanks to their transparent embryos, scientists can watch as young zebrafish develop, providing unique opportunities for studying how bodies are built. This image of an embryo was taken by researchers working on the origins of facial abnormalities, but others are using zebrafish to investigate more fundamental processes in early development. In vertebrate embryos, gradients of a signalling protein called nodal help cells to work out their position along key body axes, like front to back or left to right. Cells receive the signal by detecting nodal with a complex of multiple receptors, including two types of activin receptor (Acvr1 and Acvr2). Developing zebrafish have several forms of each receptor type, whose exact roles are not entirely understood; by knocking out each one, alone and in combination with others, researchers recently managed to determine which receptors are critical for nodal signalling, potentially helping to better understand this process in humans too.
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