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Details of muscle fibre connectivity and regulation revealed in fruit flies

21 June 2022

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Studying life is often a matter of peeling back layers, revealing its workings piece by piece like a watchmaker with a pair of pliers. And when human tissues reveal something surprising, researchers often turn to simpler, similar organisms like fruit flies to fill in the gaps. Following their discovery of 'branches' between human sarcomeres – the short stretchy units that make up muscle fibres – a team of muscle biologists turns to the fly for answers. Yet they find altering the proteins involved also creates defects elsewhere in the muscle. Here they use 3D electron microscopy and artificial colours to highlight 'holes' in parts of the fly’s fibres called z-discs that the sarcomeres usually pull against to create tension. Revealing the delicate balances at play in muscle biology, the scientists are now looking for new ways to explore the role of branching in generating muscular forces.

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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