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Patterning of connective tissues in the head: discussion report.

The three papers presented by Noden, Thorogood and Lumsden in this session encompassed the connective tissues as broadly defined, i.e. soft (fibrous) connective tissue, cartilage, bone, muscle and the dental tissues, enamel and dentine, and utilized a variety of experimental techniques on both avian and mammalian embryos to explore specificity and patterning of the vertebrate head. Whether similar developmental processes pattern homologous structures in different Vertebrate classes (Amphibia, Aves, Mammalia) was discussed with reference to patterning of the cranial musculature, chondrocranium and dental tissues. A number of challenging ideas emerged during this session. Does the premigratory neural crest consist of a homogenous population of totipotent cells or of subpopulations of bi- or tripotential cells? Is fundamental patterning of the head an early embryonic event, perhaps specified during primary embryonic induction or the consequence of neuroepithelial folding, brain growth, inductive interactions and/or spatially and temporally distributed extracellular matrix products? Can the fact that mesoderm and angioblasts do not display distinctive patterning that relates to their particular embryologic origins be extrapolated to patterning in general? How does the documentation of an odontogenic trunk neural crest in mammals affect our theories of how patterning mechanisms arose or were modified during vertebrate evolution?[1]

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