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These Broken Wings

Insight into the genetic regulation of cell division in tissue with high level of regenerative capacity - like the liver and the fly wing

13 September 2022

These Broken Wings

Fruit flies (Drosophila) have many genes in common with humans – making them a mine for clues to our own genetics. While a mutation to one important fly gene, wingless, leaves Drosophila developing without wings, its human counterpart, Wnt, is found mutated in many cancers. Here the fly shares another secret – a specific enhancer region of DNA helps in switching wingless on or off – known as gene expression. The enhancer plays a role when wingless (highlighted in red, but appearing yellow in combination with other fluorescent labels here) is expressed during normal development of the early wing (middle). But the research team finds clues to another delicate balance – in injured wings (left), wingless is switched on to promote cell division and regeneration, but tumours result if gene expression is too strong (right). Perhaps another lesson from the fly – mutated or not, how and when a gene is used is equally important.

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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