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Artificial mouse embryo created from stem cells

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University of Cambridge researchers have used stem cells from an adult mouse to grow in vitro a structure resembling a natural mouse embryo.

The researchers placed both placental and embryonic stem cells into a 3D scaffold.  Within 96 hours the cells had begun to communicate, forming two distinct clusters of cells at each end and a cavity in the middle, looking  like  a  blastocyst.

Previous attempts were not successful because early embryo development requires the different cells to coordinate with each other. The cells would not assemble into their “correct” positions.

‘We knew that interactions between the different types of stem cell are important for development, but the striking thing that our new work illustrates is that this is a real partnership – these cells truly guide each other,’ said lead researcher Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz.

The ability to study the early stages of embryo development outside the uterus may one day help explain why a significant number of human pregnancies fail, according to the researchers.

The research aimed at opening a new window on embryonic development just prior to implantation. It was published in the journal Science.


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