Molecules identified that control the arrangement of nerves in bundles
Take a bird’s eye view of urban sprawl from London to Miami and it’s chaotic but at ground level the rules of the road reveal an intricate level of organisation. Take a look at the bundles of nerves that run throughout our bodies and they too can appear randomly thrown together but in fact specific rules govern how they're arranged. Researchers investigated these rules, starting with cell adhesion molecules (CAMs), proteins known to be involved in organising nervous system development. Using fluorescence microscopy to image the tiny worm C. elegans, they focused on three nerve cells in a specific bundle, genetically altering them to each glow a different colour (two views pictured). More genetic tinkering enabled them to remove different CAMs, revealing how the order in which the nerves were bundled together changed depending on the missing CAM. Combinations of CAMs therefore rule how nerves in a bundle organise themselves.
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