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Details of how 'nurse cells' support developing egg cells revealed

24 June 2021

Nursed to Strength

In the early stages of our lives, we depend on help from family and carers. But that reliance begins long before we emerge into the world. A network of ‘nurses’ nurture egg cells to their unusually large size while they're still taking shape. These nurse cells pass their life-supporting contents directly into the nascent egg cell ahead of fertilisation. A study in developing fruit fly eggs has examined this transfer, which is crucial to fertility but not fully understood. By imaging the process (pictured, nurse cells bustling at the top), the researchers saw that the initial transfer of cell contents (blue) is driven by physical factors, like air flowing counterintuitively from a small to large balloon in a school physics experiment. Later, coordinated muscle contractions driven by the protein myosin (red) squeeze the last drops through connecting channels. If similarities exist in humans, this could help reveal key details of healthy human development.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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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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