The early stages of human development are something of an enigma. Safely contained within its mother’s womb, a burgeoning embryo is shielded from the world. But this protective cocoon presents something of a barrier to doctors and scientists keen to understand the fundamental processes that give rise to life, and decipher the causes of malfunctions that lead to a whole raft of developmental diseases. A new resource may pull back the curtain, though. Using a technique that can render the physical barriers transparent and allow 3D-visualisation of the inner workings of an embryo, without any invasive probes, an atlas of the developing body is being formed. It's providing insights such as the image above, which shows the key developing nerves in the brain of a seven week-old embryo. With the resource open for anyone to use, it’s giving everyone a glimpse into one of life’s greatest mysteries.
Written by Anthony Lewis
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.