Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Having a Blast

Stem cell-derived model of early embryo development

21 May 2021

Having a Blast

In the first few days after sperm meets egg, the womb plays home to delicate cell divisions inside a blastocyst – the structure that will become an embryo. These fragile moments are vital to early pregnancy yet difficult to investigate. Instead, scientists grew this 'blastoid', an artificial blastocyst (right), using stems cells from inside a real blastocyst (left), pictured here under a high-powered microscope. Treating the stem cells with chemicals to switch genes on or off, researchers aim to guide their development in a similar way to real life. This blastoid is developing extraembryonic membranes similar to those which help to form the early placenta (highlighted in blue), as well as the yolk sac (purple, yellow). Scientists may now use blastoids as models for early developmental stages, investigating causes of miscarriage and other complications in fertility.

Written by John Ankers

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