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Kumbaya moment for metazoans

slime_mold_h.jpg

What do all multi-celled creatures have in common? A lot, according to a study in the March 10 issue of Science, co-authored by Stanford graduate student Dan Dickinson and faculty members W. James Nelson, PhD, and William Weis, PhD.

For instance, just like club-crazed kids even some of nature's seemingly simplest creatures like to hook up. in order to stick together, human and amoeba cells alike need to have specialized molecules that pop up on specialized parts of the cell - known as "polarization." Dickinson, Nelson, and Weis found that these specialized molecules are quite similar.

Like little Leggo sets, protozoans such as the slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum cluster together under the right circumstances to generate characteristic structures called fruiting bodies. And you know what? Those fruiting bodies feature a morphology that is very reminiscent of the earliest stages of human embryogenesis (the formation of a neural tube), as well as of our digestive tracts.

To see what I'm talking about, check out image above.

Illustration by Zina Deretsky

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