Where faces come from (a new view)

Dany Adams gave one of the first 24/7 Lectures (the Lectures are now a featured annual part of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony). It was also one of the most memorable, culminating in Adams’s seven-word definition of BIOLOGY: “If it can get infected, it’s biology.”

This week Adams [pictured here] published a study together with co-author Laura Vandenberg illuminating a new aspect of biology. A report in New Scientist magazine explains:

How does an embryo know where its face should grow? This amazing time-lapse video reveals a surprising mechanism at work: electricity.

The footage shows a frog embryo early on its development. Watch carefully and around nine seconds into the video you’ll see a flash of light and dark patterns that looks like a template for where the face will subsequently develop.

These patterns are called bioelectric signals – fluxes of charged particles shooting across cells – that are already known to be involved in the formation of organs which rely heavily on electrical signals to function, such as the heart. This is the first time that they’ve been spotted in the formation of such a complex embryonic structure.

The study is published in the journal Developmental Dynamics.