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How a Single Cell Becomes an Entire Organism

Via The Harvard Gazette

This feat is one of the most remarkable in the natural world, and despite decades of study, a complete understanding of the process has eluded biologists.

Now, in three landmark studies published online today in Science, Harvard Medical School and Harvard University researchers report how they have systematically profiled every cell in developing zebrafish and frog embryos to establish a roadmap revealing how one cell builds an entire organism.

Using single-cell sequencing technology, the research teams traced the fates of individual cells over the first 24 hours of the life of an embryo. Their analyses reveal the comprehensive landscape of which genes are switched on or off, and when, as embryonic cells transition into new cell states and types.

Together, the findings represent a catalog of genetic “recipes” for generating different cell types in two important model species and provide an unprecedented resource for the study of developmental biology and disease.

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