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A Developmental Biology Summit in the High Country

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Science  01 Aug 1997:
Vol. 277, Issue 5326, pp. 639
DOI: 10.1126/science.277.5326.639

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ALTA, UTAH-- More than 1000 scientists gathered here from 5 to 10 July for an unusual joint conference of the International Society of Developmental Biologists and the Society for Developmental Biology. At the meeting, researchers reported that onychophorans, primitive, wormlike creatures believed to be the closest living relatives of the organisms that gave rise to the arthropods, including insects, have the same eight homeobox (Hox) genes as insects themselves. This indicates that the diverse body segments of insects did not evolve as a result of Hox gene duplication as previously thought, but may instead have arisen as a result of changes in Hox gene regulation. In another session, researchers reported that by studying the control of a gene believed to be key to the formation of ommatidia, the independent photoreceptor units that make up the compound fly eye, they have gained a better understanding of how the ommatidia form the eye's extremely regular hexagonal pattern. And by treating cells taken from a part of the amphibian embryo called the animal cap with proteins known to influence organ development, other researchers have been able to induce the formation of organs, such as the heart and liver, in culture. If a similar feat can be accomplished for mammalian cells, it might aid efforts to construct replacement human organs.