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First look: Whole-body gene expression

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There is a rhythm to development in every living thing. Though the tempo differs between species, the biological songs usually end the same—with a fully formed adult organism. In the worm C. elegans, the symphony plays for about 50 hours across four distinct larval stages. Each stage is sparked by a sustained pulse of gene expression, orchestrated by a quartet of proteins that help keep everything on beat.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Professor Christopher Hammell wanted to watch it happen live. In collaboration with Dr. Wolfgang Keil from the Curie Institute in Paris, Hammell expanded on an imaging technique used to witness gene expression in single cells. The team devised an improved method to film C. elegans’ development. The result: the first-ever footage to capture active gene expression in an entire animal.

Press play to grab your front-row seat to this biological concert.

Read the related story: These worms have rhythm