How does a single-cell egg turn into a swimming, metabolizing, hunting tadpole? Common understanding holds that frog DNA carries the required instructional building plans. However, developmental biologists serendipitously discovered that tiny facial features were outlined with bioelectricity just prior to their formation inside frog eggs.

Tufts University biologist Dany Adams said that when she viewed images of a time-lapse movie of bioelectrical activity in frog embryos, she “was completely blown away.”1 The research appeared in the technical journal Developmental Dynamics,2 and a related university news release included a link to the stunning video that accompanied the journal article.

The images show an embryonic frog “light show” in fast forward. Adams said, “When a frog embryo is just developing, before it gets a face, a pattern for that face lights up on the surface of the embryo.”1

In this patterning process, an ionic charge is generated on the skin’s surface by biochemical proton pumps. To assess whether this bioelectric pattern is crucial to proper development or just an interesting byproduct, the researchers disrupted the biochemical pump that generates electric potential. This affected specific critical genes, which resulted in abnormal tadpole facial development.2 Apparently, the genes are activated by the bioelectricity….

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