Courtesy of cell and developmental biologist Kenneth Zaret

This eerily glowing blob isn't an alien or a creature from the deep sea-it's a mouse embryo just eight and a half days old. The green shell and core show a protein called Smad4. In the center, Smad4 is telling certain cells to begin forming the mouse's liver and pancreas. Researchers recently identified a trio of signaling pathways that help switch on Smad4-making genes, starting immature cells on the path to becoming organs. The research could help biologists learn how to grow human liver and pancreas tissue for research, drug testing and regenerative medicine. Courtesy of cell and developmental biologist Kenneth Zaret, who conducted the work at the Fox Chase Cancer Center.

NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases also supported this work.

Featured in the July 15, 2009, issue of Biomedical Beat.
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