Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Layer Up

Studying the cellular layers that make up a sea anemone provides clues to disease development in humans

24 August 2018

Layer Up

What’s the difference between us and sea anemones? You’d probably say that we’re more complex, more layered beings. And you’d be right. We, and most animals, grow from three distinct layers – inner, outer and middle – while anemones arise from just two (inner and outer). But this ancient rudimentary layer system can provide important information about our more complex setup, particularly when you consider that cells involved in developing our middle layer are also key players in cancer development. A new study investigated the development of these layers in anemones and found that the behaviour of proteins involved in cell-to-cell adhesion – Par proteins and ß-catenin (pink in the developing anemone pictured, and implicated in both cancer and heart disease) – behave differently in different layers. Unpicking how these proteins function at different stages and layers of development will help reveal how to step in when things go awry.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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