Whether you’re raising a smile, eating tasty food or wiggling your nose, your facial movements are controlled by around 150 different muscles that are attached to your skull by strong tendons. To find out how these muscles are put together, researchers have turned to tiny zebrafish. These strange shapes are zebrafish skulls, coloured with dyes that stain bone (red) and cartilage (blue). The ones in the upper panels come from normal fish while those beneath are from animals with a fault in a gene called cyp26b1, which develop subtle abnormalities in the shape of their skulls. Furthermore, their tendons don’t attach the muscles properly to the bones so the fish can’t close their jaws properly. Because similar processes are at work as muscles are laid down over the human face, knowing more about the molecular details helps to explain what might have gone wrong in people born with facial abnormalities.
Written by Kat Arney
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