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article imageStem cells directed towards embryo development

By Tim Sandle     Nov 8, 2014 in Science
Cambridge - Embryonic stem cells can form any tissue. However, scientists have struggled to develop a properly organized embryo. This appears to have changed with some recent research.
Stem cells are special cells that have the ability to become any cell type in the body, as such they offer considerable research potential. Recent successes with stem cells include creating three-dimensional human stomach tissue in a laboratory to study diabetes and stomach cancer.
However,stem cells have presented researchers with problems when it comes to developing a properly organized embryo. This could be changing, following some studies undertaken by Alfonso Martinez-Arias of Cambridge University.
The new study has found that if stem cells are aggregated in the right numbers (approximately 300) then embryonic stem cells will begin to arrange themselves in patterns that mimic early embryonic development.
According to the website Motherboard, Martinez-Arias said: "Much to our surprise, after three days in culture they begin a series [of] movements that resemble those that organize the embryo and acquire coordinates and, as in the embryo, the seeds of the different tissues."
This enabled the science team to then direct how the cells developed: " “In one of the experiments, for example, activation of a particular signal at the correct time elicits the appearance of the mesoderm, endoderm and ectoderm — the precursors of all cell types — with a spatial organization similar to that of an embryo.”
Some of the science behind the study is explained in the video below:
The research has been reported to the journal Developments. The study is titled "Symmetry breaking, germ layer specification and axial organisation in aggregates of mouse embryonic stem cells."
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