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The Art in Science

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Brandon Carpenter, Graduate Student (Allen Laboratory), Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan Medical School

Cells constantly communicate with other cells, either by secreting signaling molecules or by directly touching their neighbors, as these cells are doing. In both cases, the signals are received by molecules known as receptors, that sit on the cell membrane and can detect the signaling molecules secreted by or located on other cells. One important cell-cell communication pathway is the Notch pathway. Cells must touch each other to use this pathway, since both the receptor and the signal are membrane-bound. During embryonic development, Notch signaling is used in the formation of almost every organ, but has particularly important roles in forming the brain, heart and blood vessels.