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Protected Growth

Cells from which blood, placenta and umbilical tube originate during embryonic development generated in the lab from stem cells

26 September 2022

Protected Growth

The protective environment of the womb supports growth from just a few cells to a human child. But it also shields those cells from the prying eyes of scientists, for whom practical and ethical limitations prevent the detailed experimentation needed to unpick the secrets of early life. Instead, researchers have tried to recreate the cells and conditions in the lab, but like copying a great work of art, replicating the subtle magic and complexity is tricky. A new study has generated a particular cell, the extraembryonic mesoderm cell, from human stem cells (precursors able to develop into any embryonic cell). In embryos these cells generate blood, help link to the placenta, and form the early umbilical tube. The new creations (pictured, red, with placental cells in green) closely replicate their natural counterparts, and may help shed light on hidden moments of growth, ultimately improving our understanding of fertility and its complications.

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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