How is an animal built from a single cell?

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How is something as complex as an animal built from a single cell, i.e., a fertilized egg?

Obviously the fertilized egg must divide and form trillions of copies of itself in order to generate the mass needed for an entire organism; but it has to do more than that…much more.

It has to generate hundreds of different kinds of cells to form all the different tissues and organs within the body. Furthermore, these cells have to be generated at the right place at the right time in order to do their jobs.

How does a single cell know how to do all of that?

It all comes down to genetic programming which is very similar to how a program is run on a computer. There are hierarchies of subroutines, all of which must be activated at exactly the right time in order for the organism to develop properly.

How are these routines and subroutines organized within the cell? More importantly, how did they originate from primitive ancestral cells over eons of time? How do you go from a simple bacteria all the way up to a complex animal?

Obviously, the simple passage of time is not the answer because otherwise, there would only be bacteria on the planet or something even simpler.

The knee jerk answer is that DNA mutations in the bacteria led to the development of more complex cells. That may be the case, but it is so vague an answer as to be virtually meaningless in terms of understanding what really went on here.

This blog attempts to address some of these questions in terms of how DNA became arranged the way it did in complex animals cells. I hope you will find it to be interesting.

Questions are also welcome and appreciated and can be sent to me at


About frankabernathy

I am a retired cell biologist and alumnus of Ohio State University. I became interested in chromosomes as far back as the 1960's when I wrote a term paper on the effects of radiomimetic drugs on chromosomes. I was fascinated at how they could break apart and reform new structures so easily. I became further involved in the early 1970's after taking a cytogenetics course at the University of Arkansas. I took that knowledge with me to Ohio State in 1980 where I eventually worked on my research and completed my Ph.D. dissertation, "Studies on Eukaryotic DNA Superstructure". My studies and later research suggested that the DNA within the eukaryotic chromosome is not the simple, linear molecular thread so widely suggested in all the classic textbooks published today. Instead, it may be the culmination of a geologically rapid set of endosymbiotic events where microorganisms plug into each other to create something greater than themselves. Feel free to contact me at
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