the community site for and by developmental biologists

The story behind the screen – flashbacks from the first RNAi screen in a whole vertebrate

Posted by on May 9th, 2011

The story of our recently released Development paper ‘FatJ acts via the Hippo mediator Yap1 to restrict the size of neural progenitor cell pools’ ( involves hundreds of dozens of fresh free-range eggs and not trivial amounts of time spent peering down a microscope. I have written this with Nick van Hateren, who is the joint first author of this paper along with me.

6th International Chick Conference

Posted by on May 6th, 2011

Can I just bring to eveyone’s attention that the 6th International Chick Conference is now to be held at The Roslin Insititute, UK. Sept 17-20, 2011. This forum often attracts a strong developmental biology contingent and we anticipate the 2011 conference will include many relevant themes (e.g Morphogenesis; Organogenesis; Patterning, Cell Fates and Organizers; Genetic[…]

Healing an injured heart

Posted by on May 5th, 2011

Regenerative medicine and stem cell research go hand-in-hand when it comes to dreaming up future strategies for treating disease and injury in humans.  Today’s image is from a recent Development paper discussing how damaged heart tissue regenerates in zebrafish, and serves as a great model for devising strategies to help human heart attack patients. When[…]

Map of Life: A guide to convergent evolution

Posted by on May 4th, 2011

The Map of Life is a recently published guide to convergent evolution produced by the University of Cambridge that has been touring science festivals and events across the world. It contains hundreds of article about structures and adaptations that have evolved independently in unrelated organisms such as camera eyes in jellyfish and snails to gliding[…]

March of Dimes Prize Announced

Posted by on May 4th, 2011

The March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology was jointly awarded this April to David Page, Director of the Whitehead Institute, and Patricia Ann Jacobs, professor of human genetics at Southampton University Medical School and co-director of research at the Wessex Regional Genetics Laboratory. Both Page and Jacobs specialize in research on human sex chromosomes[…]

Second cover image winner: mouse pharyngeal arch

Posted by on May 4th, 2011

Congratulations to Hozana Andrade Castillo of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, whose image of a mouse pharyngeal arch jumped from third place to first place in the last few days of voting. Her image will appear on a cover of Development in the next few months. Developing pharyngeal arch region of mouse embryo[…]

An After Thought to Evolution: Exceptional ways of Controlling Gene “Expression”

Posted by on May 3rd, 2011

More and more, the central dogma is becoming well, dogged, for being a dogma at all. As humans, we have 3 billion nucleotides. Only 1% of it makes up our protein coding genes, which led to the development of the central dogma: DNA is transcribed to RNA and translated into proteins. During undergrad, we’re taught[…]

Science – The Bigger Picture

Posted by on May 1st, 2011

This is a retelling of the student and post-doc workshop from the second day of the BSDB/BSCB joint spring meeting that took place in Canterbury at the University of Kent. The session emphasised the need for accurate science and scientific involvement in public communication. It ended up a bit longer than I’d intended, but this[…]

Rethinking X-chromosome Inactivation

Posted by on April 30th, 2011

I’ve been asked to present the back-story behind our recently published manuscript in Development “Transcription precedes loss of Xist coating and depletion of H3K27me3 during X-chromosome reprogramming in the mouse inner cell mass.” Mammalian dosage compensation occurs by silencing one X-chromosome in female cells, termed X-chromosome Inactivation (XCI).  Balancing X-linked gene transcription is critical for[…]

Stem cell patent case could have far-reaching impact

Posted by on April 28th, 2011

Last month, the advocate-general of the European Court of Justice gave his opinion on a long-running legal debate about a patent filed several years ago in Germany. If the Court follows his recommendation, patenting of applications using embryonic stem cells will be prohibited on moral grounds. 13 leaders of major stem cell projects in Europe responded to[…]