Cilia are tiny, hair-like projections that cover certain cell surfaces (amber). Present on most animal and plant cells, they can beat rhythmically in gentle waves to aid cell locomotion, remove debris and sense the surroundings. Defects in these small ‘sensors’ can lead to a wide range of problems including birth defects, infertility and recurrent respiratory infections. A gene called ARF4 was thought to be important for the proper formation and functioning of cilia. But scientists have now shown that mice developing without this gene form cilia perfectly – however, these mouse embryos die. So questions still remain regarding the formation and programming of normal cilia and new questions about developmental biology are raised. And the quest for new therapeutic approaches for those with ciliary diseases continues. It seems that science is a wave with peaks and troughs of understanding and pure confusion.
Written by Cara Foley
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (the new name for the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre) the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.