Detailed and direct observation of organ development
To keep things healthy, most of our organs regularly refresh their component cells. Injured or aged cells are replaced with new recruits, produced from a stock of stem cells that multiply and develop into the required cell type. This routine maintenance occurs in animals of all shapes, including the fruit fly. Despite appearances, the fly’s midgut is comparable to our small intestine, and is a useful model system for studying both organ renewal and the problems that arise during disease and ageing. However, the insights provided by experiments have been limited by an inability to visualise changes over long periods of time. Now a new technique opens a window on the midgut for up to 16 hours (pictured). It reveals a new level of detail to researchers, shows that certain information can only be gleaned by direct observation over time, and provides new opportunities for investigating how organs stay healthy.
Written by Anthony Lewis
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