How do egg cells grow? This experiment cracked the code

An enigmatic physical phenomenon, called ‘interconnected inflated balloon’, analogous to the exchange of gases between balloons of different sizes, appears to be the critical mechanism of the egg cells ending up big | Image - Eunice Dhivya

There is more to an egg than an omelette. An egg is a cell. It is made up of just one cell. Even an ostrich egg, typically weighing about 1.6 kg, is just a single cell. For most vertebrates, the egg cell is the most giant cell of all.

Why the egg cells are enormous, we have some thought. Once fertilised, eggs have to support the growth of the embryo without external materials. Nevertheless, biologists have not been clear how the egg cells end up becoming so big.

Led by biology postdoc Jasmin Imran Alsous and physics graduate student Nicolas Romeo, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) biologists and mathematical physicist joined together to probe this riddle. Investigating the formation of the oocyte, immature egg cell in fruit flies, their research has revealed the intricate mechanism behind the growth for the first time.

They have confirmed the long-suspected role of the myosin, a molecular motor that gives traction to the cell. However, the action of the myosin alone does not provide a complete picture.

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