Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Womb to Grow
09 February 2017

Womb to Grow

A pregnant woman’s body goes through many dramatic changes to provide a nurturing environment for a developing embryo. A swelling belly and hormonal changes may be obvious, but some adjustments are more subtle. Captured using a high-powered microscope, these pictures of part of a mouse’s uterus offer a detailed glimpse before (top), and during pregnancy (bottom). Shown here artificially coloured, the wall of the uterus (light blue) is lined with shrub-like glands that release nourishing chemicals in the early days of pregnancy. The glands bend during pregnancy (bottom) to point in the direction of the implanted embryo (just off the right side of the picture). This technique can now be applied to different stages of pregnancy, helping scientists to understand how the uterus adapts at this microscopic scale. These insights may help to improve the success rate of in vitro fertilisation, or, alternatively, help to design more effective contraceptives.

Written by John Ankers

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