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Branco Weiss fellow Zi Chen shows how the embryonic chick brain twists

25.11.2016 17:55

In a normal chick embryo, the heart loops to the right-hand side and the brain also turns right. This rightward torsion of the brain is one of the earliest organ-level left-right asymmetry events in development. In an abnormal chick embryo, the heart loops to the left-hand side and the brain also turn leftwards, forming a shape that resembles a question mark. When the left-right symmetry is altered, significant birth defects can result, including inversion of the positions of visceral organs.

In a paper recently published by the Royal Society journal, Branco Weiss fellow Zi Chen and his team identified the source and magnitude of the physical force necessary to make the brain twist and discovered that the heart looping direction mechanically determines the brain twisting direction.

The paper (entitled “How the embryonic chick brain twists”) highlights the necessity to view development not just from the traditional lens of molecular genetics but also mechanics in order to construct a more complete picture of the concerted processes in embryonic development. “Our work uncovers the role of mechanical forces in this morphogenetic process and will open new venues of research on how molecular genetics and mechanical factors cooperatively regulate morphogenesis in development,” says Chen.


Read the paper on the Royal Society website

Read the news on the Dartmouth website