Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Unlocking Early Life

Large-scale production of blastoids – lab grown models for studying early embryo development

31 December 2022

Unlocking Early Life

The first few days after sperm meets egg are crucial. One delicate cell division after another leads to a structure called a blastocyst, which will eventually become an embryo. These vital and earliest stages of pregnancy could be considered a well kept secret as they are particularly difficult to study. Shedding more light on them could offer many answers on how to improve in vitro fertilisation (IVF) success rates and the causes of miscarriage. ‘Artificial blastocysts’ called blastoids have already been grown to study early development, but the process of creating them was very inefficient. Researchers have now developed a method for larger scale production. With the new method, more blastoids can be generated with fewer starting resources. But most importantly, they still retain the ability to form embryo-like structures (pictured), with genes key to helping a developing blastocyst penetrate the womb lining switched on (highlighted in pink and cyan), and therefore making them useful for studying implantation.

Written by Sophie Arthur

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