The article How One Cell Gives Rise to an Entire Body written by Elizabeth Pennisi describes a series of studies which is meant to investigate a biological phenomenon of a single fertilized egg being able to form a whole organism. It can consist of a wide variety of cell types, ranging from tissue to organs. With the development of cell-sequencing and computational technology, researchers are able to track gene activity of simple organisms such as zebrafish or frogs as they develop from an embryonic state. Vertebrates have highly complex cell activity which has presented a challenge to track cell sequences.
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The researchers used a specific methodology. Embryos were dissolved in specialized solutions, and individual cells were isolated and their mRNA determined. Genetic tracers were inserted into the cytoplasm, and as the cells began to divide, the genetic barcodes were embedded into the nuclei. Towards the end of the experiment, each type of cells had a unique combination of genetic tracers (Pennisi, 2018).
The researchers then used computational analysis of gene activity profiles to trace the cell development into specific organs. Another method used by Harvard biologists, relied on computation, using software to work backward based on the mRNA and gene activity based on the cell’s age. It helped to discover that during development, cells may change their “destination” of which type of tissue or organ it will end up as, something that was thought to be improbable (Pennisi, 2018).
The article directly relates to the biology concepts that the course covers regarding the nature of cells, cell division, and genetics. The course text indicates that cells are the smallest unit of life and an organism consists of many individual cells. “Multicelled organisms are typically organized as tissues, organs, and organ systems that interact to keep the individual’s body working properly” (Starr, Evers, & Starr, 2010, p. 5). In this course, the role that cell division and genetics plays in the formation of an organism is extensively covered. I am able to apply the knowledge gained from the fundamentals of biology in the course in order to better understand the scientific methods described in the article as well as its importance for research.
This article caught my attention because I did not realize the complexity of cell division and its growth into an organism. I think that, while the mechanisms of cell division and growth are extensively studied, the specific processes of tissue and organ formation remain mostly unknown. I believe the article covers a topic which is tremendously critical for genetic research going forward which is an issue important to me. The author mentions that this research is tremendously beneficial for stem cell research and tissue engineers who are focused on creating specific cell types similar to the embryos in the experiments (Pennisi, 2018).
With further research, a fully outlined mechanism of cell development could be revolutionary for medical practice. This affects me both directly and indirectly since I strive to possibly enter a career in the medical research field and as the technology becomes practical, it will impact the health care that I could receive.
This type of research is in the field of genetics that should be funded both publicly and privately. One of the primary reasons for government funding as it allows to implement a certain level of legislative control over the technology, which may be necessary to ensure ethical standards as well as the use of the research to improve sectors of the public and economy where it may be beneficial. Furthermore, scientific research may often need public funding as an essential foundation for more lucrative private funding is implemented.
More often than not, private funding depends on the commercial application of the technology and investors tend to avoid risk. Therefore, in order to further genetic research, a combination of government, academic, and private funding should be used to achieve the best outcomes (Croeser, 2014).
Croeser, S. (2014). How private funding influences GM research. The Conversation. Web.
Pennisi, E. (2018). How one cell gives rise to an entire body. Science. Web.
Starr, C., Evers, C., & Starr, L. (2010). Biology: Concepts and applications. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.