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Early Restart

Models sufficiently mimic developing embryos to allow research into aspects of embryogenesis

25 November 2021

Early Restart

They say that once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget. It seems there are certain unforgettable skills for our cells too. Stem cells – starter cells in an embryo that specialise into other cell types – maintain their ability to form the basic structure of an embryo even when they’re removed and replanted elsewhere. A new study harnesses this to develop embryo-like forms which can be used to probe fundamental questions of human development. Experiments with human embryos themselves are limited by short supply and strict ethical restrictions, so being able to mass-produce structures (pictured) that mimic their morphology allows researchers to interrogate early development with experiments that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Although the reconstructions differ in various ways from embryos, the similarities open many doors for investigation, which could ultimately unearth new information about devastating conditions that take hold in the earliest stages of life.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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