Cranial neural crests cells, or CNCCs, contribute to many more body parts than their humble name suggests. These remarkable stem cells not only form most of the skull and facial skeleton in all vertebrates ranging from fish to humans, but also can generate everything from gills to the cornea. To understand this versatility, scientists from the lab of Gage Crump created a series of atlases over time to understand the molecular decisions by which CNCCs commit to forming specific tissues in developing zebrafish. Their findings, published in Nature Communications, may provide new insights into normal head development, as well as craniofacial birth defects.
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