Friday, September 16, 2011

In the early life of an embryo, a monster lurks: Newly fertilized cells only narrowly avoid degenerating into fatal chaos

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The cell cycle is the repeated division and duplication of cells that transforms a single fertilized egg into a full-grown organism.

Scientists already knew that embryonic cell cycles are initiated by a swift wave of calcium that emanates from the fertilization site and prompts the embryo's cells to divide and duplicate -- or oscillate,

natural spread of oscillation is unstable and would result in an erratic patchwork of missed and incomplete cell divisions.

The researchers' simulation produced the first indication that the fast-moving calcium wave known to spark cell division doubles as a synchronizer that sets cells to the same developmental timetable.

The finding revealed a crucial role for the somewhat puzzling existence of the calcium wave, as well as a new level of sophistication in how embryos function.

cell-cycle oscillation, while remarkably uniform in the end, does not come by that harmony on its own, especially not in anything as big as an embryo, which is much larger than a typical cell

The simulation exposed the calcium wave as not only an initiator of embryo development but also a regulator of that activity.

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