Unlocking an ancient pathway with tadpoles
Cell-to-cell communication through “Wnt” signaling is a universal cellular language found across the animal kingdom. Wnt represents a family of proteins that are implicated in cell proliferation and differentiation. It plays an important role in human diseases, including cancer, such as medulloblastoma, and developmental disorders.
Understanding how cells interpret and respond to Wnt is the focus of Xi He, PhD, research associate (neurology) at Children’s Hospital Boston.
He and other researchers frequently use frogs to study development because:
- Fertilization, from egg to tadpole, takes only two days.
- Frogs are vertebrate animals and share similar embryonic development to humans.
- Frogs also have genes/proteins that are similar to humans.
Pictured: WNT ECTOPIC EXPRESSION results in two-headed tadpoles.
These features allow He to discover new genes and interesting phenotypes. He hopes that his findings will better our understanding of human brain development and brain tumors.