How many cillia are needed for the left to distinguish itself from the right?

Research developed at CEDOC published in the “Developmental Cell”


DEVCEL_29_6.c1.inddThe paper entitled "Left-Right Organizer Flow Dynamics: How Much Cilia Activity Reliably Yields Laterality?" developed at Susana S. Lopes’ laboratory (CEDOC-FCM-NOVA), was published in the “Developmental Cell”, the scientific journal with the highest reputation in the area of embryology (impact factor = 12.86).

Susana Lopes’ research team recently discovered that the pattern of fluid dynamics observed in a microscopically embrionary organ of zebrafish, the left-right organizer, can be used to predict if the position of the internal organs, such as the heart or liver, will be correctly displayed or not.

The incorrect organ position is a rare human disease affecting around 10 000 people. The origin of this disease is due to the incorrect motility of the cilia. These structures are very thin cell protrusions, similar to hairs, which move in undulatory patterns. Perturbations of the cilia undulatory mobility pattern leads to the malfunction of the left-right organizer, also present in humans, responsible for the organization of the visceral organ position in the abdominal and thoracic cavities of the embryo.

This paper has 3 first authors, Pedro Sampaio and Rita R. Ferreira, Master Students of Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia (FCT-NOVA), and Dr. Adán Guerrero, from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. A team of mathematicians leaded by Dr. David Smith, from the Birmingham University, modeled this phenomenon originally observed by the Portuguese research team. This collaboration between biologists and mathematicians culminated in the conclusion that the left-right organizer in zebrafish requires the functional mobility of at least 30 cillia, especially in the anterior region, for the correct establishment of laterality of the internal organs.

For more informations see the following links:
Original Publication:
Supplementary material:
Cilia regulation and disease Lab at CEDOC-FCM-NOVA:

Written by