Why do scientists study the development of model organisms?

By | April 15, 2021
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Developmental biology is the study of the process by which organisms grow and develop. Modern developmental biology studies the genetic control of cell growth, differentiation and “morphogenesis”, which is the process that gives rise to tissues, organs and anatomy.

One of the important goal for developmental biologists is to understand how humans develop from a single celled embryo to highly complex multi celled adult and also to find cures to different diseases we encounter during our life span.This is all possible when one can understand the mechanisms underlying various aspects of development and disease.

(What proteins are involved to make a organ ? How to they interact with each other during crosstalk between different signalling pathways required to make that tissue or organ? And which step is hampered in a diseased condition, so that a cure can be found by targeting that stage or protein ?) However we don’t study developmental process in Humans for following reasons:

1) Observation is difficult inside the uterus.
2) We cannot perform experiments on humans embryos for moral and ethical reasons.
3) We wouldn’t want to breed humans to look at effects of gene mutations on embryos.

This is where model organisms come to our rescue. Despite a huge variation in adult forms, all organisms share similar developmental mechanisms, which is obvious by the similarity in basic embryo plan for different vertebrate model organisms studied. Developmental processes are so fundamental that there are striking similarities in the development of very varied organisms.

Depending upon the need, various model organisms are employed by researchers to unravel basic biological principles during development. Some of the famous ones are fruit fly (Drosophila), zebrafish , the nematode worm (C. elegans), The plant Arabidopsis thaliana, the mouse , Chicken, Yeast. However each have advantages and some disadvantages. So a finding made in fruit flies can shed light on a biological process in Humans. Model organisms grow quickly, are relatively simple and inexpensive to work with, and are widely available for use in experiments.

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  1. Pingback: Advantages of Drosophila as a model for basic and applied research - I Fly Bio

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