Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Guiding Guts
30 May 2016

Guiding Guts

We start life as a single cell – a fertilised egg – that divides many times to make billions. These cells specialise and organise themselves to create the complex structures of a baby’s body as it grows in the womb. It’s difficult to study this incredible feat of biological engineering in human development, so researchers have turned to a simpler laboratory system: tiny nematode worms known as C. elegans. The tube that forms a worm’s gut is made from just 20 cells, which all originally come from a single progenitor. Using a high-powered microscope, scientists are able to watch the gut cells growing and organising themselves in real time (top), allowing them to recreate a computer model of the process (bottom). Each individual cell is highlighted in a different colour, revealing that just like the shifting blocks in a Rubik’s cube, the cells shuffle and switch around before finally ‘clicking’ into place.

Written by Kat Arney

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