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Map for the development of nerve cells

Normal spinal cord (left) and spinal cord with disturbed signals (right) © IST Austria

The study shows that future nerve cells in mouse embryos measure their precise position by sending out two different signals spreading from opposite sides of the spinal cord. Based on this map, they turn into the appropriate nerve cell type.

“We’ve made an important step in understanding how the diverse cell types in the spinal cord of a developing embryo are organized in a precise spatial pattern. The quantitative measurements and new experimental techniques we used, as well as the combined effort of biologists, physicists and engineers were key. This allowed us to gain new insight into the exquisite accuracy of embryonic development and revealed that cells have a remarkable ability to orchestrate precise tissue development,” says Anna Kicheva, Group Leader at IST Austria.

“It is likely that similar strategies will also be used in other developing tissues and our findings might be relevant to these cases. In the long run, this will help inform the use of stem cells in approaches such as tissue engineering and regenerative medicine”, she concludes.  

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