New technique that allows the study of embryo development – without the need for embryos
Researchers have pioneered a technique to investigate how embryos develop, but which doesn't use embryo tissue. This could side-step the ethical issues involved in embryo research. Aimed not to produce a living animal, but rather to find out more about the first steps in development. The technique uses stem cells, which can become many different types of cell. When the team stimulated mouse stem cells in a dish, the cells organised themselves into artificial embryo-like structures, called gastruloids (pictured). Next, the gastruloid developed along three axes that are known to be an important blue-print for the location of limbs. These axes run front to back, top to bottom and left to right. Here, cells that are spreading out to form the length of the body are labelled green, while cells which will ultimately become the tail bud are in pink. Further developing cells are labelled blue.
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