Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sci-Fly study explores how lifeforms know to be the right size

26.03.2015

Shakespeare said "to be or not to be" is the question, and now scientists are asking how life forms grow to be the correct size with proportional body parts.

Probing deeply into genetics and biology at the earliest moments of embryonic development, researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center report March 26 in Nature Communications they have found new clues to explain one of nature's biggest mysteries.


Scientists at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center report March 26 in Nature Communications new progress in modeling systems for studying proportional development of the Drosophila fruit fly. This simple life form allows researchers to build a foundation for asking the same questions in more advanced life forms, such as mammals and humans.

Credit: Matt Kofron/Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Their data from fruit flies show the size and patterning accuracy of an embryo depend on the amount of reproductive resources mothers invest in the process before an egg leaves the ovary.

"One of the most intriguing questions in animal development is something called scaling, or the proportionality of different body parts," said Jun Ma, PhD, senior author and a scientist in the divisions of Biomedical Informatics and Developmental Biology.

"Whether you have an elephant or a mouse, for some reason their organ and tissue sizes are generally proportional to the overall size of the body. We want to understand how you get this proportionality."

To tackle an age-old and very complex problem, Ma and his colleagues study fruit flies (Drosophila) - one of the simplest forms of animal life.

Why the fly? Ma explains this allows scientists to explore the proportional size question in a comparatively basic animal to learn fundamental principles. This produces knowledge and mathematical models that allow researchers to ask the same questions in more advanced life forms, such as mammals and humans. Ultimately, it could provide a means for helping understand the root developmental causes of certain birth defects.

The scientists start at a point when a mother fruit fly harnesses genetic and biological resources in the ovary to start forming the eggs of her future brood, and follow it through to the development of her embryos. They combine mathematical modeling of the phenomenon with testing in the lab in search of a complete picture. The process requires a large number of experimental measurements and a well-stocked fly room.

In their current study, Ma and colleagues develop a model that allows them to measure and mathematically link core pieces of this developmental picture. They call it TEMS, which means Tissue Expansion-Modulated Maternal Morphogen Scaling. A morphogen is a protein that forms a concentration gradient along a developing axis of an embryo (for example from anterior to posterior) and instructs genes to make their products in specific parts of the embryo. These gene products will control the formation of an animal's various body parts.

In the fruit fly, a gene called bicoid produces a morphogen gradient and helps run the show. Proportional sizing in fly embryos can occur either before, during, or after all cells have started to pattern into specific tissues or organs. The Nature Communications paper looks at the embryo's proportional scaling front to back, which occurs before individual organs start to form.

The scientists report that the size of fruit fly embryos depends on the quantity of initial tissue expansion in the mother's ovary - specifically the growth and size of the ovarian egg chamber and the expansion of bicoid gene copy numbers. This helps decide how large the mother fly's 15 ovarian nurse cells will become, and how many duplicate copies of the fly's genome and mRNA cells will contain. This trove of developmental resources all gets transferred to the oocyte that will become the future egg.

The TEMS model lets researchers quantify the overall size of the mother fly's biological investment in this process. It also helps predict how that investment will determine the strength and robustness of the bicoid morphogen gradient that controls the proportion of body parts for her offspring. In short, a larger investment means a bigger return in the form of larger embryos that form well-proportioned body parts.

When calculating the peak numbers of bicoid gene copies in the mother fly's nurse cells, the scientists were intrigued by how these numbers resemble the peak number of cell nuclei in the offspring blastoderm (an early stage embryo). This finding leaves the researchers with new questions to unravel, such as its fundamental meaning, and how much the relationship between a mother's biological investment and the way her embryos develop is impacted by the larger principles of evolution.

In the end, Ma and his colleagues said they want to develop unified system-level views for understanding, quantifying and predicting how life forms come about the way they do. Their goal is that this new knowledge can eventually be applied to benefit people, both large and small.

###

Co-first authors on the study were Feng He and Chuanxian Wei, Division of Biomedical Informatics at Cincinnati Children. Also collaborating were researchers from the State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (Chinese Academy of Sciences), Beijing, China; the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing; and the Sino-French Hoffman Institute (Guangzhou Medical University), Guangzhou, China.

Funding support for the study came from the National Institutes of Health (1R01GM101373) and National Science Foundation (IOS-0843424).

About Cincinnati Children's:

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S. News and World Report's 2014 Best Children's Hospitals. It is also ranked in the top 10 for all 10 pediatric specialties. Cincinnati Children's, a non-profit organization, is one of the top three recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health, and a research and teaching affiliate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The medical center is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation.

Additional information can be found at http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org. Connect on the Cincinnati Children's blog, via Facebook and on Twitter.

Nick Miller | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Nature Communications bicoid body parts embryos fly fruit flies fruit fly leaves

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht A promising target for kidney fibrosis
21.04.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

nachricht Stem cell transplants: activating signal paths may protect from graft-versus-host disease
20.04.2017 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>