US researchers have reported the first detailed molecular characterisation of how every cell changes during animal embryonic development.
Using the latest technology in the emergent field of single cell biology, the team from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Washington profiled more than 80,000 cells in the embryo of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.
In this visualisation of the dataset, each dot represents a single cell, its colour represents the age of the embryo it came from (orange=early, green=mid, blue/red=late), and the dots are arranged so that cells with similar transcriptomes are near each other.
Seen this way, the researchers observe, the data form various thin “trajectories” that correspond to tissues and individual cell types.
The findings are published in the journal Science.