Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Examining the early stages of embryo development in gastruloids – embryo models created from stem cells

27 May 2022

Embryonic Choreography

The transformation of an embryo into a baby involves the staggeringly complex choreography of billions of cells. In the opening scenes of this show, three layers of cells must form in an embryo: the endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm. Researchers now probe how the endoderm, which goes on to form your stomach, intestines, lungs, liver and pancreas, comes to be. Using two-photon, time-lapse microscopy of spheres of mouse embryonic stem cells called gastruloids (pictured), they tracked all cells by labelling them with a dye (left). By fluorescently tagging different proteins, they found some cells lost a protein called E-cadherin while others retained it. Next, islands of cells with E-cadherin were surrounded by cells containing a mesoderm marker, T-Brachyury (middle), and flowed towards one end of the elongating sphere before finally maturing into endoderm cells. This sheds light on some of the earliest moves in the complicated dance of development.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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