When life takes shape


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Today’s picture of the week is not only a colourful one, it is also a snapshot of the vast number of shapes that the cells inside an animal body can adopt. How this variety comes about is investigated in the Leptin group at EMBL Heidelberg. 

To understand the shapes of the cells in fruit fly embryos, the group applies advanced imaging technologies, cell biology and genetics. At the bottom of this picture, you can see a cell of the future respiratory system of the fly, which is tubular and highly branched. Its structure is perfectly adapted to distribute air as efficiently as possible. The cell connects with a muscle cell – running diagonally across the picture.

The research in the Leptin group can help us to understand how cells with identical DNA can develop different shapes and thus fulfil their functions. Their model system is the fruit fly, but the results the group obtain can help us to understand developmental processes in other multicellular organisms like humans.

Credit: Daniel Rios/EMBL

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