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zebrafish notochord development

Crooked Foundation

A vertebrate’s backbone forms around a structure called the notochord, which is a feature that all of us spined creatures have in common as embryos. By watching this process in live zebrafish embryos, Michel Bagnat’s lab in Cell Biology has determined that fluid-filled sacs called vacuoles inside individual notochord cells provide structural support for the growing vertebrae. The vacuoles in a healthy notochord (above the fish skeleton) appear as dark areas; a lack of vacuoles, as seen in the lower image, leads to bends and kinks in the spine similar to those seen in human scoliosis. (micro-CT done by McMenamin Lab – Boston College)