Optogenetics: changing the structure of embryonic tissue

Optogenetics: changing the structure of embryonic tissue
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Scientists in EMBL’s De Renzis group have enhanced optogenetics and updated the technique of changing embryonic tissue structure.

The research explains the optogenetics technique to alter the structure of embryonic tissue to stop organ-shaping processes in fruit fly embryos.

It has been carried out by a research team at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg, Germany and was led by Stefano De Renzis.

What is optogenetics?

De Renzis said: “Imagine the embryo as a balloon and tissue invagination as the deformation caused by fingers that push the surface of the balloon inwards. The only difference is that cells are not being subjected to an external force like the fingers, but need to be able to generate forces to move inside by themselves.”

Optogenetics uses light to control protein activity. Optogenetics allows researchers to alter the structure of embryonic tissue and stop the development of abnormalities.

Altering embryonic tissue

The scientists in EMBL’s De Renzis group explain their work: “We use optogenetics to quantitatively control myosin‐II levels at the basal surface of invaginating cells during Drosophila gastrulation.” Their results, published in The EMBO Journal, demonstrate control over a crucial step of embryonic development.

About EMBL

EMBL said: “We are an intergovernmental organisation established in 1974 and are supported by over 20 member states. EMBL performs fundamental research in molecular biology, studying the story of life. We offer services to the scientific community; train the next generation of scientists and strive to integrate the life sciences across Europe.

We are international, innovative and interdisciplinary. We are more than 1600 people, from over 80 countries, operating across six sites in Grenoble (France), Hamburg (Germany), Heidelberg (Germany), Cambridge (UK), Rome (Italy), and Barcelona (Spain). Our scientists work in independent groups and conduct research and offer services in all areas of molecular biology. Our research drives the development of new technology and methods in the life sciences. We work to transfer this knowledge for the benefit of society.”

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