The Grim Reaper is seen exclusively as the bringer of death. However at the cellular level the mastermind behind death, the protein p53, also sparks life. Every tissue undergoes controlled cell death to ensure they continue to work properly. p53 orchestrates this death but also encourages cell division among the neighbours of an ill-fated cell. This protein exists in two forms; long and short. To discover how they work scientists turned to the undead – that is the undead cells of genetically altered fly embryos. More specifically, their imaginal discs from which the wings develop (pictured). These discs were tweaked so death could be triggered but not completed, giving scientists enough time to see what p53 is up to. Comparing long and short p53 revealed that both caused cell death via a pathway aptly named Reaper-Hid-Grim. However when it came to getting neighbouring cells to divide short p53 was the winner.
Written by Lux Fatimathas