Tech UPTechnologyDeveloping cells do 'synchronized swimming' within the embryo

Developing cells do 'synchronized swimming' within the embryo

Life is one of the most fascinating processes, and also the most enigmatic. Each biochemical reaction runs with extremely orderly precision at least about ninety-five percent of the time, leading to the development of a healthy organism.

But the other five percent of the time, when things don’t go perfectly, the process can affect the later development of human life, resulting in a variety of genetic disorders and diseases.

Now, a team of scientists from Duke University has described a curious process that takes place inside the embryo, and that has to do with the perfect discipline that cells execute when performing cell divisions, observing development of the fruit fly embryo.

It is a kind of cellular ‘synchronized swimming’.

Unlike a human embryo, where a single cell multiplies through repeated cell divisions, the early embryo of a fruit fly begins as a soccer ball-shaped egg that contains a single nucleus, which in turn it divides into thousands of nuclei , all within the same cell.

Scientists already knew that in the embryo they occur as currents or oscillations. But, for the first time, it has been observed how the oscillations that exist in biochemical activity begin to occur around cell nuclei.

These oscillations create currents that disperse the nuclei in a specific formation by sending biochemical signals to the surrounding nuclei, as if the cells were doing synchronized swimming, all in a perfectly coordinated order that allows them to undergo the same number of divisions.

Previously, it was not known where or if these oscillations occurred or if they had a role in controlling movements within the embryo.

Although fruit fly embryos develop differently from human embryos, scientists believe the study may shed light on human development and regeneration studies.

The study has been described in the prestigious journal Cell on May 2.

“What really makes this research special is our ability to bring together all the ideas that have been published so far to create a model to solve the problem,” in the words of Dr. Stefano Di Talia, one of the study authors. “By using the sophisticated computational model that we developed, we can determine exactly what biochemistry is and how it relates to cell mechanics.”


Using the computational model, which was developed with the experience of study co-author Alberto Puliafito from the University of Turin, the scientists were able to determine that if the nuclear positioning process is not performed correctly, a failure will occur in the synchronization of cell division. , with the consequent genetic defects.

Why the fruit fly?

But, if this process has only been observed in the fruit fly, does that mean that we can extrapolate the results in humans as well?

According to Victoria E. Deneke, lead author of the study: “Generally speaking, there are many commonalities between all animals. We all have to expand our cell number first and then specify it in different cell types. coordinating that process is essentially what we are trying to learn through our study, which reveals some general principles that can be applied to more complex tissues. “

Drosophila melanogaster, known as the fruit fly, is common in research laboratories. Why? Usually, an animal with which a certain percentage of genetic information is shared is used, so that the results are extrapolated or, at least, comparable, to the human being. 61% of human disease genes have an identifiable analog in the genetic code of fruit flies , as explained by biologist Sharmila Bhattacharya of NASA’s Ames Research Center, and 50% of fly protein sequences it has analogues in mammals.

Victoria E. Deneke et al. Self-Organized Nuclear Positioning Synchronizes the Cell Cycle in Drosophila Embryos, Cell (2019). DOI: 10.1016 / j.cell.2019.03.007

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