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Pediatr Res. 2008 Oct;64(4):326-33. doi: 10.1203/PDR.0b013e31818535e8.

A bird's eye view of enteric nervous system development: lessons from the avian embryo.

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Department of Pediatric Surgery and the Pediatric Intestinal Rehabilitation Program, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


The avian embryo has been an important model system for studying enteric nervous system (ENS) development for over 50 y. Since the initial demonstration in chick embryos that the ENS is derived from the neural crest, investigators have used the avian model to reveal the cellular origins and migratory pathways of enteric neural crest-derived cells, with more recent work focusing on the molecular mechanisms regulating ENS development. Seminal contributions have been made in this field by researchers who have taken advantage of the strengths of the avian model system. These strengths include in vivo accessibility throughout development, ability to generate quail-chick chimeras, and the capacity to modulate gene expression in vivo in a spatially and temporally targeted manner. The recent availability of the chicken genome further enhances this model system, allowing investigators to combine classic embryologic methods with current genetic techniques. The strengths and versatility of the avian embryo continue to make it a valuable experimental system for studying the development of the ENS.

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