Communicating science with art: how are fish and us alike?

Great Lakes Echo –

We like fish.

And we are like fish.

Two Michigan State University scientists recently displayed that similarity through art.

Ingo Braasch and Julia Ganz, researchers at the university’s Department of Integrative Biology, compiled videos and photos taken during their research into artwork named “Life in Technicolor: The Art of Fish Development and Evolution.” They showed it at a recent MSU science-art exhibition.

The art is a byproduct of differentiating types of cells to better study them.

“Vertebrates are the animals with a backbone,” Braasch said. “We are vertebrates. So are fish.”

In an early embryo, a subgroup of cells migrates around the developing body and generates different types of cells, he said. Some can develop into the teeth, skull or parts of the heart. These are called neural crest cells.

“What makes vertebrates unique are their neural crest cells,” Braasch said. “They make all the different structures, including what we showed in our artwork.”

Ganz’s artwork depicts the enteric nervous system in the gut, which can control the gut movements as shown in this video.

“It has a cool name as ‘the second brain’ because it can work independently from the central nervous system,” Ganz said. “If you take out a gut and cut down all its connections to the central nervous system, it would still function on its own.”

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