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Picturing Health New Life Awakens

Zygotic genome activation – when the individual's genome takes full control of development

04 February 2023

New Life Awakens

Celebrated by a recent exhibition at its new building in White City, London, the MRC LMS has launched a book and website with over 100 interpretations of the phrase ‘A Picture of Health’ gathered from a broad cross-section of society.

As his Picture of Health, Professor Juanma Vaquerizas, head of the MRC LMS Developmental Epigenomics group, chose this image of a fruit fly embryo. Read why:

“Animals of all kinds must go through zygotic genome activation: After fertilisation the first developmental steps are enabled from the maternally inherited material. Then a switch occurs to full control of the developmental programme which will form a new individual using their own genome. Here this transition is happening in a fruit fly embryo. We can see the majority of nuclei in the embryo undergoing nuclear division (in blue), with a special compartment of cells called pole cells (pink) that will lead to the formation of the germline. It represents fundamental aspects of life, among them evolution – the very same mechanisms that lead to the generation of the enormous cellular complexity of an organism will also lead to mutations that can become fixed in the genome of the species driving their evolution. Zygotic genome activation is an amazing time point in the life of any organism, one that we should marvel at how nature managed to orchestrate it.”

Written by Lindsey Goff

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What is BPoD?

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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BPoD is also available in Catalan at with translations by the University of Valencia.