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Multipotency of Trunk Neural Crest Cells in Trachemys Scripta

by Seth Martin


Craniosynostosis is a common deformity involving premature fusion of the skull bones. A better understanding of the process by which the skull bones form (intramembranous ossification) could result in improved treatment options. Some skull bones are produced by a population of migrating, multipotent cells from the developing brain, known as neural crest cells (NCCs). In turtles, the bony plates that comprise the ventral part of the shell (the plastron) are also formed by intramembranous ossification. I am investigating whether similar migrating NCCs, arising from the developing spinal cord instead of the brain, form the plastron. Turtle NCCs were isolated, allowed to differentiate, and the resulting cell types were analyzed. The fraction that produced typical NCC-derived cells, such as pigment cells, was compared to the fraction that produced bone-forming cells. This experiment tested the model that NCCs migrating through the body of turtle embryos are capable of differentiating into bone.

About the Author

Seth L. Martin is a junior majoring in Biology with a pre-med concentration at Millersville. His passion for improving human health led him to seek a research topic that expands the current body of human healthcare knowledge. His project employs the turtle as a model system for studying human skull formation, specifically examining the role of neural crest cells in bone establishment and growth. He was able to verify that, unlike any other known organism, turtles have a late-migrating wave of neural crest cells that produce bone. Seth’s future research will utilize this model to study how neural crest cells become bone cells and also to apply this knowledge to common bone-formation maladies in humans. Because he plans to attend medical school to pursue family medicine, Seth will surely appreciate the organizational skills, conceptual enhancement, and self-discipline he learned from his active scientific research at Millersville.

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