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Growing Up

Cell contact drives direction of cell movement in developing tissues

24 March 2021

Growing Up

Metamorphosis sees tadpoles transforming into frogs and caterpillar larvae blooming into butterflies. This fruit fly larva undergoes its own changes – here a thin layer of muscle grows along its testis, pictured under a high-powered microscope. Each developing muscle cell or myotube is followed in rainbow colours by a computer algorithm (right). This unusual living model teaches researchers more about cell migration – here myotubes use tiny finger-like filopodia to feel around and move 'upwards' into space, while movement 'downwards' is blocked by contact with other cells, giving the migrating cells direction. Analysing the genes and chemicals involved may suggest ways in which development can be guided in cells with faulty genes, perhaps raising hopes for treating human developmental conditions.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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