Durham, N.C. September 06, 2006 The current issue of Differentiation, guest-edited by Brigid Hogan, highlights several scientific investigations into the complex biological mechanism known as branching morphogenesis. Through a series of seven laboratory reviews, important insights governing this process during animal development are revealed. The articles analyze how branching morphogenesis occurs in different organ systems in the same species. They also compare the process between simple and complex organisms.
Key questions within the reviews --pertaining to the maintenance and repair of cells within adult branched organs, the role of cells only transiently associated with adult organs, and the extent to which defects in the growth and development of fetal stage organs can affect organ function after birth -- have important implications for human health.
Two of the reviews in the Journal delve into tubulogenesis a process that is intimately tied to branching morphogenesis. Another contains research aimed at helping patients whose salivary glands have been injured by radiation therapy or autoimmune rejection. An investigation into the morphogenesis of the prostate gland and seminal vesicles is included, as well as an in-depth look at the genetic and cellular interactions critical to placental development. Research on this process in mouse kidneys generated a real-time tracking procedure which has significant implications for genetic manipulation.
Ultimately, scientists hope analysis of branching morphogenesis will lead to the design of a computer program that is able to virtually reconstruct the complete process of organogenesis from simple bud to complex organ. The reviews in this special issue of Differentiation are written by top scientists offering fresh ideas and pertinent background information to readers interested in anything from molecular to cellular and developmental biology.