What is Development?

Understanding how a human being is formed form a single fertilised egg can lead to incredible scientific breakthroughs...
11 April 2017

Interview with 

Katherine Brown, Development Journal


An 8 day old embryo


Chris spoke to Katherine Brown who’s the executive editor of the journal ‘Development’…

Katherine - Developmental biology, or embryology as we used to call it, has been going on for well over a century and the journal that I work with has been going for more than 60 years. Really, what we’re interest in is how do you go from that single fertilised egg, or that small group of embryonic cells, to a fully grown individual? How do the cells know what to turn into; whether they should become lung or heart or brain? How do they get to form the right shape so that your gut is a long tube, and your lungs are well branched so that you can get lots of air? And also, how do you do that with all of the organs at the same time so that everything becomes the right size at the right time and both your legs are the same length?

Chris - That’s important. But why is it important for scientists to understand that process?

Katherine - What’s really important now, I think, is that because what we’ve some understanding of this we can learn what goes wrong in diseases. So lots of developmental diseases, for example, that affect newborn babies. And we can also start to take either those embryonic cells out of an organism and into a dish and turn them into the right kinds of cells to be able to use, for example, cell therapies in various diseases, or to be be able to try and look and understand what goes wrong in a disease so we can try and fix it.


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