Tracking the Movements That Shape an Embryo

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Science  07 Apr 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5463, pp. 86-87
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5463.86

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Gastrulation, the massive rearrangement of an embryo that transforms a relatively uniform ball of cells into a multilayered organism with a recognizable body plan, is crucial to embryonic development, yet discovering just what causes the cells to move and guides them to their designated places has frustrated embryologists for more than a century. In the past few years, however, scientists have begun to link genetic signaling cascades to molecules that actually affect the movements of gastrulation, including those that cause cells to stick together and those that promote movement. Although there's a long way to go before scientists fully comprehend gastrulation's remodeling, these new findings are injecting a sense of optimism into the field.