Glands lining the wall of the uterus are vital throughout pregnancy – they produce chemicals that nourish an early embryo. But researchers discovered something else, after using light-sheet microscopy to get a good look at the glands (coloured in blue) growing from the walls (purple) of these mouse uteruses. The 3D images on the top (with increased detail on the right), show glands arranged like fingers in a glove, around a region of the uterus called a crypt where the embryo implants. Researchers believe glands reach out and touch the embryo, and the combination of chemical and physical contact may be disrupted during pregnancy, resulting in miscarriage. The uterus in the lower images, pictured with a different technique, lacks an important protein called Vangl2, leaving its glands withered and in disarray. The next job is investigating the role of similar proteins in guiding the connection between human embryos and mum’s uterine glands.
Written by John Ankers