Nav: Home

How two-tone cats get their patches comes to light in cell study

January 06, 2016

Scientists have discovered how the distinctive piebald patches seen in black and white cats and some horses are formed in the womb.

Their insights could shed light on medical conditions that occur early in development, such as holes in the heart, which are caused by cells not moving to the right place as an embryo develops.

Researchers who set out to learn how pigment cells behave in mice found that they move and multiply randomly during early development rather than follow instructions.

Their findings contradict the existing theory that piebald patterns form on animals' coats because pigment cells move too slowly to reach all parts of the embryo before it is fully formed.

The study, by mathematicians and geneticists, shows that there is no complicated cell-to-cell communication to send the cells in a particular direction.

The same mathematical model could now be used to follow other types of cell during early development. Researchers at the Universities of Bath and Edinburgh, who carried out the study, say it could help them better understand conditions linked to early cell positioning.

Dr Richard Mort, from the University of Edinburgh's Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit said: ''We already know cells move through the developing skin to create pigment. We have discovered that they move and multiply at random which is not what was expected. Using a mathematical model we were then able to show that this simple process could explain piebald patterns.''

Dr Christian Yates a Mathematical Biologist from the University of Bath, added: "Piebald patterns can be caused by a faulty version of a gene called kit. What we have found is counter intuitive. Previously it was thought that the defective kit gene slowed cells down but instead we've shown that it actually reduces the rate at which they multiply. There are too few pigment cells to populate the whole of the skin and so the animal gets a white belly. In addition to kit, there are many other genes that can create piebald patterns, the mathematical model can explain piebald patterns regardless of the genes involved.''
-end-
The research, published in Nature Communications, was funded by the Medical Research Council, Medical Research Scotland, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reductions of Animals in Research.

University of Bath

Related Mathematical Model Articles:

How big brains evolved could be revealed by new mathematical model
A new mathematical model could help clarify what drove the evolution of large brains in humans and other animals, according to a study published in PLOS Computational Biology.
'Field patterns' as a new mathematical object
University of Utah mathematicians propose a theoretical framework to understand how waves and other disturbances move through materials in conditions that vary in both space and time.
Mathematical model reveals parental involvement can 'immunize' students from dropping out
The bad news? It only works up to a point.
Mathematical model limits malaria outbreaks
Mathematical models can effectively predict and track malaria transmission trends, ultimately quantifying the efficiency of various treatment and eradication strategies in high-risk regions.
Scientists create first viable mathematical model of a key anti-Salmonella defense system
Scientists have created the first validated mathematical model of an important cellular defense mechanism against the bacterium Salmonella, according to a new study in PLOS Computational Biology.
More Mathematical Model News and Mathematical Model Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#535 Superior
Apologies for the delay getting this week's episode out! A technical glitch slowed us down, but all is once again well. This week, we look at the often troubling intertwining of science and race: its long history, its ability to persist even during periods of disrepute, and the current forms it takes as it resurfaces, leveraging the internet and nationalism to buoy itself. We speak with Angela Saini, independent journalist and author of the new book "Superior: The Return of Race Science", about where race science went and how it's coming back.