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The spine of a zebrafish embryo

How the Zebrafish Got its Spine

Our spines don’t start out as bone. In the embryos of vertebrates, the spine begins as a rod with a core of fluid-filled sacks. This structure is called the “notochord” and provides a flexible scaffold for the trunk and a mold for the spine. To learn more about how our spines form, former Duke graduate student Kathryn Ellis and professor Michel Bagnat tracked the growth of notochords in transparent zebrafish embryos, one of which glows green and red in this microscope photo. Their studies uncovered details about the biological mechanisms controlling spinal growth and insights into conditions like scoliosis.