News FocusMysteries of Development

How Do Organs Know When They Have Reached the Right Size?

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Science  07 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6137, pp. 1156-1157
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6137.1156-b

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Developmental biologists have found dozens of proteins and genes that play a role in the growth of plants and animals. But how growing organs and organisms can sense their size and know when to stop is still a mystery. Developmental biologists continue to explore that mystery, and the current objects of their attention are imaginal discs, flattened sacs of cells that grow during fruit flies' larval stages. Scientists can also change the rate at which imaginal disc cells divide, prompting either too many or not enough cells to form, but the cell size adjusts so that organ size remains the same. How does a developing organ somehow senses the mechanical forces on its growing and dividing cells?