Science Savvy Oct 26th, 2012

Back from Fall Break! This week’s science savvy examines relationships and cell genealogies. Today, it’s easier than ever to learn about our genealogy. For a mere $300, 23 and me provides information about the likely birthplaces of our ancestors. Articles in science journals and the popular press tout our Neanderthal ancestry. And recently, an article in Neuron traced the lineages of retinal progenitor cells in more detail than ever before. We read this paper (which is the result of a fruitful collaboration between the groups of Bill Harris and Ben Simons at Cambridge University) for our Dev Neurobio class a few weeks ago, and it’s the topic of this week’s Science Savvy “From Green to All Grown Up”. In class, and while Patrick and Caitlin were writing the piece, we discussed  competence states and stochasticity. These conversations always seemed to end with thoughts about determinism versus chance versus free will. I love when science spills into philosophy.

This is the first time we’ve included a figure (reprinted below) in a Science Savvy, and I think it’s a nice touch. What do you think?

Lineage Relationships of Retinal Progenitor Cells. Evidence supporting a stochastic model of retinal cell differentiation. In the middle of the figure, small vertical bands–which describe the particular lineage path an individual cell took–are grouped together horizontally based on the similarity of their lineage paths. Different colors indicate different cell types. On the bottom of the bars is a tree of how you might expect cell lineages to branch off assuming that sister cells might follow similar lineage paths. The top lines show the cells that were actually produced from sister lineages, indicating much greater complexity.                          Figure reprinted from Neuron, 75(5), Jie He, et al., How variable clones build an invariant retina, pp. 786-796,         Copyright © 2012, with permission from Elsevier.
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