Health

Cells Battle to the Death in the Developing Embryo

Survival of the fittest appears to govern the earliest days of an embryo's development.

By Jeff WheelwrightJan 29, 2014 4:53 PM
mouse-embryo.jpg
An 11-day-old mouse embryo. | Natalia Sinjushina & Evgeniy Meyke / Shutterstock

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

Charles Darwin established the idea of competition between organisms to ensure the survival of the fittest. In July, researchers in Spain reported the same competition happening within an organism. During the early days of a mouse embryo’s development, cells with higher levels of a protein called Myc outdo cells expressing lower amounts of Myc. All the cells are healthy, emphasizes first author Cristina Clavería of the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares in Madrid. But after the cells come in contact, the “losers” die, donating their biochemical innards to their presumably fitter counterparts. “There’s communication between winners and losers, but which way the signal goes, we’re not sure,” she says. The contest ends after a week; at that time, Clavería predicts, surviving cells produce uniform (and higher) levels of Myc.

Myc is an important player in the growth of organisms and also is implicated in cancer, another unhealthy competition between cells. Perhaps, Clavería says, cell expansion driven by Myc sets the stage for a tumor.

[This article originally appeared in print as "Cell Battle to the Death."]

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Magazine Examples
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.