U.S. biologists have identified a specific genetic and molecular mechanism that results in the asymmetric shape critical to a cell’s proper functioning.

In the landmark study, Florida State University researchers say their findings in fruit fly eggs may help clarify how muscular dystrophy and some cancers develop in humans.

Many of the genes involved in the cell-to-cell communication that triggers development of cell polarity in Drosophila oocytes (unfertilized fruit fly eggs) also are known players in the pathogenesis of those diseases.

FSU Assistant Professor Wu-Min Deng and doctoral student John Poulton say their study might foster a better overall understanding of polarity and how it develops, and why it doesn’t — sometimes with dire consequences — in other types of cells and organisms.

Results from the study are described in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.