Monday, December 14, 2009

Extraordinary Embryo of the Week

Mondays are tough. It seems to be a universal truth.

My solution? Brighten our Mondays with a beautiful embryo image!

Of course, for my first Extraordinary Embryo, I had to choose Xenopus laevis, my current weapon of choice (slash model organism).

I've had this image on my screensaver for a while now, and while it's very simple, it's also quite beautiful. It's from Michael Klymkowsky at the University of Colorado Boulder.

As you can probably tell, they're both quite early stage embryos - they're still just balls of cells. The embryo on the left is at a later stage than the one on the right - you can see that it has a lot more cells.

There's something about these ball-shaped embryos that really makes me smile. Why? I guess because they make me think about what's still to come.

At some point they stop being balls and start to become animals. The cells in these balls move and grow and change, and they do so in an organised way. Cells on one side "know" that they're on that side, and act accordingly. Every cell is an individual, there is no "boss-cell" giving orders and telling the rest where to go. Yet somehow, these individuals work together, dividing and differentiating and migrating... To produce an animal.

And I think that's pretty amazing.

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