Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 7th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Feathered Friends
11 May 2018

Feathered Friends

Like many natural patterns, feathers look elegant and simple, but zoom in on the molecules inside and a crowd of proteins is working to shape each individual branch. The healthy pattern of these chicken feathers (shown top middle and sketched below) is shaped by small GTPases – proteins that control how and when branches develop at different points on the feather’s rachis (central shaft). Removing two of these proteins, RhoA (left) or Cdc42 (right) alters the pattern. Some of the steps involved in tissue patterning, or morphogenesis, are common to other organs and even different species. Feather branching is used as a model for testing chemotherapies – watching how the delicate patterns cope with these powerful chemicals as a step towards helping human tissues recover after necessary, yet damaging cancer treatments.

Written by John Ankers

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

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.

Read More

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