Development is more than just growth: Understanding the mechanics of organ shrinkage during embryo formation
When we think about embryo growth, we often focus on tissue growth. However, this is not always the case: for example, the nervous system actually shrinks during parts of development. How do tissues condense in size while maintaining mechanical integrity? In recent work from the Saunders lab, with Spanish collaborators Enrique Martin-Blanco and Jose Munoz, they show that the Drosophila nervous system condenses through alternating waves of contraction from the anterior and posterior ends of the embryo. Further, they use the power of Drosophila genetics to reveal that the glial cells provide an essential mechanical support, effectively acting like a compression sock during condensation. This work opens up new avenues to study the mechanobiology of tissues that shrink – such tissues display behaviour very much distinct from growing tissues. Read the paper here.