Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Seminars in cell & developmental biology


The circadian clock is an endogenous timer that anticipates and synchronizes biological processes to the environment. Traditional genetic approaches identified the underlying principles and genetic components, but new discoveries have been greatly impeded by the embedded redundancies that confer necessary robustness to the clock architecture. To overcome this, global (omic) techniques have provided a new depth of information about the Arabidopsis clock. Our understanding of the factors, regulation, and mechanistic connectivity between clock genes and with output processes has substantially broadened through genomic (cDNA libraries, yeast one-hybrid, protein binding microarrays, and ChIP-seq), transcriptomic (microarrays, RNA-seq), proteomic (mass spectrometry and chemical libraries), and metabolomic (mass spectrometry) approaches. This evolution in research will undoubtedly enhance our understanding of how the circadian clock optimizes growth and fitness.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Evolution, Genomics, Functional genomics, CLOCK


Programmed cell death eliminates unneeded and dangerous cells in a timely and effective manner during development. In this review, we examine the role cell death plays during development in worms, flies and mammals. We discuss signaling pathways that regulate developmental cell death, and describe how they communicate with the core cell death pathways. In most organisms the majority of developmental cell death is seen in the nervous system. Therefore we focus on what is known about the regulation of developmental cell death in this tissue. Understanding how the cell death is regulated during development may provide insight into how this process can be manipulated in the treatment of disease.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, DNA, Gene expression, Organism, Apoptosis, Regulation, Programmed cell death


The purpose of this review is to describe the endocrine and local testicular factors that contribute to the regulation of the blood-testis barrier (BTB), using information gained from in vivo and in vitro models of BTB formation during/after puberty, and from the maintenance of BTB function during adulthood. In vivo the BTB, in part comprised of tight junctions between adjacent somatic Sertoli cells, compartmentalizes meiotic spermatocytes and post-meiotic spermatids away from the vasculature, and therefore prevents autoantibody production by the immune system against these immunogenic germ cells. This adluminal compartment also features a unique biochemical milieu required for the completion of germ cell development. During the normal process of spermatogenesis, earlier germ cells continually cross into the adluminal compartment, but the regulatory mechanisms and changes in junctional proteins that allow this translocation step without causing a ‘leak’ remain poorly understood. Recent data describing the roles of FSH and androgen on the regulation of Sertoli cell tight junctions and tight junction proteins will be discussed, followed by an examination of the role of paracrine factors, including members of the TGFβ superfamily (TGFβ3, activin A) and retinoid signalling, as potential mediators of junction assembly and disassembly during the translocation process.

Concepts: Immune system, Gene, Cell membrane, Testosterone, Testicle, Sertoli cell, Spermatogenesis, Puberty


The aim of this special issue on science communication is to inspire and help scientists who are taking part or want to take part in science communication and engage with the wider public, clinicians, other scientists or policy makers. For this, some articles provide concise and accessible advice to individual scientists, science networks, or learned societies on how to communicate effectively; others share rationales, objectives and aims, experiences, implementation strategies and resources derived from existing long-term science communication initiatives. Although this issue is primarily addressing scientists working in the field of biomedical research, much of it similarly applies to scientists from other disciplines. Furthermore, we hope that this issue will also be used as a helpful resource by academic science communicators and social scientists, as a collection that highlights some of the major communication challenges that the biomedical sciences face, and which provides interesting case studies of initiatives that use a breadth of strategies to address these challenges. In this editorial, we first discuss why we should communicate our science and contemplate some of the different approaches, aspirations and definitions of science communication. We then address the specific challenges that researchers in the biomedical sciences are faced with when engaging with wider audiences. Finally, we explain the rationales and contents of the different articles in this issue and the various science communication initiatives and strategies discussed in each of them, whilst also providing some information on the wide range of further science communication activities in the biomedical sciences that could not all be covered here.

Concepts: Scientific method, Mathematics, Science, Research, Medical research, Policy, Social sciences, Biomedical scientist


Science communication is increasingly important for scientists, although research, teaching and administration activities tend to eat up our time already, and budgets for science communication are usually low. It appears impossible to combine all these tasks and, in addition, to develop engagement activities to a quality and impact that would make the effort worth their while. Here we argue that these challenges are easier addressed when centering science communication initiatives on a long-term vision with a view to eventually forming outreach networks where the load can be shared whilst being driven to higher momentum. As one example, we explain the science communication initiative of the Manchester Fly Facility. It aims to promote public awareness of research using the model organism Drosophila, which is a timely, economic and most efficient experimental strategy to drive discovery processes in the biomedical sciences and must have a firm place in the portfolios of funding organisations. Although this initiative by the Manchester Fly Facility is sustained on a low budget, its long-term vision has allowed gradual development into a multifaceted initiative: (1) targeting university students via resources and strategies for the advanced training in fly genetics; (2) targeting the general public via science fairs, educational YouTube videos, school visits, teacher seminars and the droso4schools project; (3) disseminating and marketing strategies and resources to the public as well as fellow scientists via dedicated websites, blogs, journal articles, conference presentations and workshops - with a view to gradually forming networks of drosophilists that will have a greater potential to drive the science communication objective to momentum and impact. Here we explain the rationales and implementation strategies for our various science communication activities - which are similarly applicable to other model animals and other areas of academic science - and share our experiences and resources to provide ideas and readily available means to those who are actively engaging or intend to do so.

Concepts: Model organism, Science, Theory, Das Model, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila, Public, YouTube


Science communication is becoming an increasingly important part of a scientist’s remit, and engaging with primary and secondary schools is one frequently chosen strategy. Here we argue that engaging with schools will be more effective when engaging with teachers through structured participation and/or collaboration, in order to respond to the realities of school life in designing the strategies used by science communicators. For example, the Manchester Fly Facility advocates the fruit fly Drosophila as an important research strategy for the discovery processes in the biomedical sciences. To communicate this concept also in schools, we developed the ‘droso4schools’ project as a refined form of scientist-teacher collaboration that embraces the expertise and interests of teachers. Within this project, we place university students as teaching assistants in university partner schools to collaborate with teachers and develop biology lessons with adjunct support materials. These lessons teach curriculum-relevant biology topics by making use of profound conceptual understanding in Drosophila combined with examples taken from human biology. By performing easy to implement experiments with flies, we bring living organisms into these lessons, thus endeavouring to further enhance the pupil’s learning experience. In this way, we do not talk about flies but rather work with flies as powerful teaching tools to convey mainstream curriculum biology content, whilst also bringing across the relevance of Drosophila research. Through making these lessons freely available online, they have the potential to reach out to teachers and scientists worldwide. In this paper, we share our experiences and strategies to provide ideas for scientists engaging with schools, including the application of the droso4schools project as a paradigm for long-term school engagement which can be adapted also to other areas of science.

Concepts: Biology, Organism, Education, High school, College, School, Collaboration, Teacher


Plants are the primary producers of biomass on earth. As an almost stereotypic feature, higher plants generate continuously growing bodies mediated by the activity of different groups of stem cells, the meristems. Shoot and root thickening is one of the fundamental growth processes determining form and function of these bodies. Mediated by a group of cylindrical meristems located below organ surfaces, vascular and protective tissues are continuously generated in a highly plastic manner, a competence essential for the survival in an ever changing environment. Acknowledging the fundamental role of this process, which is overall designated as secondary growth, we discuss in this review our current knowledge about the evolution and molecular regulation of the vascular cambium. The cambium is the meristem responsible for the formation of wood and bast, the two types of vascular tissues important for long-distance transport of water and assimilates, respectively. Although regulatory patterns are only beginning to emerge, we show that cambium activity represents a highly rewarding model for studying cell fate decisions, tissue patterning and differentiation, which has experienced an outstanding phylogenetic diversification.

Concepts: Plant, Cellular differentiation, Vascular plant, Plant anatomy, Plant stem, Phloem, Meristem, Vascular cambium


EuroStemCell is a large and growing network of organizations and individuals focused on public engagement with stem cells and regenerative medicine - a fluid and contested domain, where scientific, political, ethical, legal and societal perspectives intersect. Rooted in the European stem cell research community, this project has developed collaborative and innovative approaches to information provision and direct and online engagement, that reflect and respond to the dynamic growth of the field itself. EuroStemCell started as the communication and outreach component of a research consortium and subsequently continued as a stand-alone engagement initiative. The involvement of established European stem cell scientists has grown year-on-year, facilitating their participation in public engagement by allowing them to make high-value contributions with broad reach. The project has now had sustained support by partners and funders for over twelve years, and thus provides a model for longevity in public engagement efforts. This paper considers the evolution of the EuroStemCell project in response to - and in dialogue with - its evolving environment. In it, we aim to reveal the mechanisms and approaches taken by EuroStemCell, such that others within the scientific community can explore these ideas and be further enabled in their own public engagement endeavours.

Concepts: Scientific method, Cell, Developmental biology, Cell division, Stem cell, Cell biology, Regenerative medicine, Organ transplant


Spectraplakins are evolutionarily well conserved cytoskeletal linker molecules that are true members of three protein families: plakins, spectrins and Gas2-like proteins. Spectraplakin genes encode at least 7 characteristic functional domains which are combined in a modular fashion into multiple isoforms, and which are responsible for an enormous breadth of cellular functions. These functions are related to the regulation of actin, microtubules, intermediate filaments, intracellular organelles, cell adhesions and signalling processes during the development and maintenance of a wide variety of tissues. To gain a deeper understanding of this enormous functional diversity, invertebrate genetic model organisms, such as the fruit fly Drosophila, can be used to develop concepts and mechanistic paradigms that can inform the investigation in higher animals or humans. Here we provide a comprehensive overview of our current knowledge of the Drosophila spectraplakin Short stop (Shot). We describe its functional domains and isoforms and compare them with those of the mammalian spectraplakins dystonin and MACF1. We then summarise its roles during the development and maintenance of the nervous system, epithelia, oocytes and muscles, taking care to compare and contrast mechanistic insights across these functions in the fly, but especially also with related functions of dystonin and MACF1 in mostly mammalian contexts. We hope that this review will improve the wider appreciation of how work on Drosophila Shot can be used as an efficient strategy to promote the fundamental concepts and mechanisms that underpin spectraplakin functions, with important implications for biomedical research into human disease.

Concepts: Nervous system, DNA, Protein, Gene, Cell, Insect, Cytoskeleton, Drosophila


Science communication is becoming ever more prevalent, with more and more scientists expected to not only communicate their research to a wider public, but to do so in an innovative and engaging manner. Given the other commitments that researchers and academics are required to fulfil as part of their workload models, it is unfair to be expect them to also instantly produce effective science communication events and activities. However, by thinking carefully about what it is that needs to be communicated, and why this is being done, it is possible to develop high-quality activities that are of benefit to both the audience and the communicator(s). In this paper, I present some practical advice for developing, delivering and evaluating effective science communication initiatives, based on over a decade of experience as being a professional science communicator. I provide advice regarding event logistics, suggestions on how to successfully market and advertise your science communication initiatives, and recommendations for establishing effective branding and legacy.

Concepts: Scientific method, Science, Research, Communication, American films, Nonviolent Communication, Audience, Graphic communication