How to Grow a Spine

September 27, 2017

Waves of vertebrae-building signals pulse outward in mouse cells mimicking a developing embryo.

Like a string of pearls, the spine is made of a series of similar vertebrae. A so-called segmentation clock creates this repetitive arrangement in developing embryos: Each time the clock ticks, a vertebra starts to form.

In a paper published Sept. 21 in Cell, Harvard Medical School genetics professor Olivier Pourquié, Prof. L. Mahadevan, and colleagues report that they used mouse cells to reconstitute a stable version of this clockwork for the first time in a petri dish, leading to several new discoveries about where the clock is located, what makes it tick and how the vertebral column takes shape.

The team’s insights not only illuminate normal vertebrate development but also could lead to improved understanding of human spinal defects such as scoliosis...

Read "How to Grow a Spine" by Stephanie Dutchen September on hms.harvard.edu, September 26, 2017. https://hms.harvard.edu/news/how-grow-spine.

Also read the research article: Alexis Hubaud, Ido Regev, L. Mahadevan, Olivier Pourquié, "Excitable Dynamics and Yap-Dependent Mechanical Cues Drive the Segmentation Clock," Cell 171 (2017) DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2017.08.043.