Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

BPoD is 5

In 2017 we celebrate five years of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science

Growing Stripes
21 April 2017

Growing Stripes

In humans, healing broken bones is slow and painful, and lost limbs can never be regrown, yet some species have far more resilient skeletons. Zebrafish are able to entirely regenerate amputated fins, an impressive feat completed within only two weeks. Clusters of specialised skin cells split and move from the base to the tip of the fin to activate bone-producing stem cells, or osteoblasts, using a signalling molecule known as sonic hedgehog (Shh). Labelling the cells responding to Shh with green fluorescence in a developing tail fin (pictured) tracks the growing fin bones, or rays. Communication between skin cells and osteoblasts is critical to obtaining a skeleton with the appropriate pattern: when the Shh signalling pathway is blocked, fins develop incorrectly, with straight, unbranched rays. While not aiming to replicate the regenerative capacity of zebrafish in humans, understanding how Shh underpins it could inspire new ways to stimulate bone repair.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences 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.

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