Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Following the details of the early stages after embryo implantation using a lab-grown model

18 September 2021

Early Meetings

The first moments of pregnancy are marked by fragile milestones – when cells implanted in the womb send chemical signals to the rest of an embryo, directing its growth. This environment is so delicate that watching under a microscope without causing disruption is challenging. Instead, here scientists recreate part of the story with lab-grown cells. They introduce a cluster of trophoblast cells (similar to those found around the implanted embryo) to a cluster of early embryonic cells similar to an epiblast, and watch what happens under a high-powered microscope. Contact with the trophoblast cells (highlighted in green) switches on a set of proteins known as T/Bra (highlighted in red) in the epiblast – in real embryos this signals gastrulation, where cells form distinct layers towards becoming tissues. Such lab-grown ‘embryoids’ may allow researchers to get a better picture of the early changes in studies of fertility and development.

Written by John Ankers

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