Embryology and the Sea Anemone

Embryology is the science of the development of an embryo from the fertilization of the ovum to the fetus stage. How the newly borndevelops cell by cell is still a bit of mystery. The sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis, is a new study creature in embryology. Its career is being launched in part by the Stowers Institute for Medical Research Associate Investigator Matt Gibson, Ph.D., who is giving it equal billing with what has been his laboratory’s leading player, the more traditional fruit fly. Gibson’s lab investigates the cellular and molecular mechanisms used by cells to assemble into layers or clusters during embryogenesis. Those tissues, comprised of densely packed cells known as epithelial cells, shape the body not only of simple creatures but also of mammals, where they line every body cavity from lung to intestine and form hormone- and milk-secreting glands. Unfortunately these cells have a dark side too- over 80% of human cancers, carcinomas, are of epithelial origin.

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