For the first time, scientists have shown that a small cluster of cells in the human embryo dictates the fate of other embryonic cells. The discovery of this developmental “organizer” could advance research into many human diseases, and it suggests we have more in common with birds than meets the eye.
As [A. James] Hudspeth explored the neural mechanisms of hearing over the years, he developed a special appreciation for the intricate anatomy of the inner ear—an appreciation that transcends the laboratory. “I think we as scientists tend to underemphasize the aesthetic aspect of science,” he says.
"'It is mind-blowing' that cells from such evolutionarily distant species can share these developmental instructions, says Ali Brivanlou, a stem cell biologist at The Rockefeller University in New York City and a senior author on the new study. The organizer 'has been conserved evolutionarily over hundreds of millions of years, so not seeing it would have been a surprise,' he says. But, 'There is something really emotional about looking that far back at human origin.'"
NIH Director's Blog
"[Michael] Rout and [Brian] Chait have spent more than 20 years trying to solve the structure of NPCs. Not only are NPCs large and constantly engaged in shuttling molecules in and out, they also represent moving machines."