The image of a mouse embryo show different portions of the developing nervous system, including hindbrain segments 4 and 5, where genes guide the formation of nerves controlling facial expressions and eyeball movements.
Credit: Gary Gaufo
Humans Share DNA That Helps Mice Move Ears, Eyes, Whiskers
University of Utah researchers have identified genes that ensure nerves develop in the correct part of the brain so mice can roll their eyeballs sideways, wiggle their whiskers, pull their ears back and blink their eyelids. The genes are common to all mammals, and so they likely help control human facial expressions such as smiles and frowns.
“In this study we looked at what nerves are made in a particular part of the brain, the hindbrain,” says geneticist Mario Capecchi, professor and co-chair of human genetics at the University of Utah School of Medicine and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). “We see that in certain parts of the hindbrain, the embryo makes nerves that innervate the facial muscles, and in another part of the hindbrain, the embryo makes nerves that innervate eye movement.”
Mario Capecchi | University of Utah
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