Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Bioelectrical Connections Key in Understanding Development

Biologists at Tufts University have successfully induced worms to grow heads and even brains of other species of worms without changing their genome. The previous dogma surrounding development was that an individuals genomic code was the only thing responsible for large scale anatomy. Without altering the worms genome, researchers were able to stimulate anatomic changes by simply interrupting the connections of electrical synapses at gap junctions. This goes against the current understanding of the chromosomes role in development. Interestingly, the closer the two species of worms were related evolutionarily, the easier it was for the researchers to induce change to modify them to become more like one another.

This new information can be used to help doctors treat babies with birth defects as well as help fix injuries more efficiently. One day, an individual might simply be able to undergo electrical therapy to make the body experience changes to heal and fix structures that were previously damaged. This is new and exciting research that would be very beneficial to many people.
G. dorotocephala, the worm used in this study

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