Embryonic cell migration patterns are amazingly complex in the timing and spatial distribution of cells throughout the vertebrate landscape. However, advances in in vivo visualization, cell interrogation, and computational modeling are extracting critical features that underlie the mechanistic nature of these patterns. The focus of this review highlights recent advances in the study of the highly invasive neural crest cells and their migratory patterns during embryonic development. We discuss these advances within three major themes and include a description of computational models that have emerged to more rapidly integrate and test hypothetical mechanisms of neural crest migration. We conclude with technological advances that promise to reveal new insights and help translate results to human neural crest-related birth defects and metastatic cancer.
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