C. elegans embryo. Image courtesy of Chris Higgins and Liang Gao.

C. elegans can grow from a single fertilized egg to a fully developed and functioning organism in just 14 hours. Here, two cells (in blue) migrate from an embryo's surface to its interior, where the cells will form internal structures. Scientists used to think this migration started when a protein motor called myosin pinched the surface and made it shrink. New research in the roundworms suggests that cells, like cars, use a clutch to trigger the pinching of the surfaces. Since C. elegans share many genetic and developmental features with other organisms, including humans, this new knowledge could enhance our understanding of how cells change their shape during critical processes. Image courtesy of Chris Higgins and Liang Gao. Read more... Link to external Web site

Featured in the March 15, 2012, issue of Biomedical Beat.