Studying somite segmentation – the regulated formation of cell blocks during embryo development – in a lab-grown model
Grown in a lab from human stem cells, organoids are powerful tools – models that mimic fragile processes that may be (for the moment) unwatchable in living tissues. Scientists have produced kidney-oids, lung-oids… even brain-oids, but here researchers develop an organoid to peek at the segmentation clock. Early in development, embryos produce patterns of somites – segmented ‘building blocks’ destined to form vertebrae, ribs and some muscles. These ‘somitoids’ churn out their own somite segments around every five hours, similar to those in a real embryo. They faithfully reproduce other details too, such as covering themselves with an epithelial ‘skin’ as they mature. Researchers find they can tweak these growth patterns with drugs that interfere with developmental proteins, and are now hoping to use these new tools to investigate delicate early steps in development.
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