Smoking, lack of exercise, bad diet and our genes are all well-known risk factors for heart disease, cancer and diabetes. But, as researchers are beginning to understand, the environment in the womb as we first begin to grow may also determine our future.
How difficult is it to conceive? According to a widely-held view, fewer than one in three embryos make it to term, but a new study from a researcher at the University of Cambridge suggests that human embryos are not as susceptible to dying in the first weeks after fertilisation as often claimed.
Scientists have shown how the precursors of egg and sperm cells – the cells that are key to the preservation of a species – arise in the early embryo by studying pig embryos alongside human stem cells.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge have succeeded in growing miniature functional models of the lining of the womb (uterus) in culture. These organoids, as they are known, could provide new insights into the early stages of pregnancy and conditions such as endometriosis, a painful condition that affects as many as two million women in the UK.
Fish embryo study indicates that the last common ancestor of vertebrates was a complex animal complete with gills – overturning prior scientific understanding and complementing recent fossil finds. The work places gill evolution concurrent with shift to self-propulsion in our earliest ancestors.
Abnormal cells in the early embryo are not necessarily a sign that a baby will be born with a birth defect such as Down’s syndrome, suggests new research carried out in mice at the University of Cambridge. In a study published today in the journal Nature Communications, scientists show that abnormal cells are eliminated and replaced by healthy cells, repairing – and in some cases completely fixing – the embryo.
Juvenile zebra finches that experience high stress levels will ignore how their own parents forage and instead learn such skills from other, unrelated adults. This may help young birds avoid inheriting a poor skillset from parents – the likely natural cause of their stress – and becoming trapped by a “bad start in life”.
Researchers have captured the first 3D video of a living algal embryo turning itself inside out, from a sphere to a mushroom shape and back again. The results could help unravel the mechanical processes at work during a similar process in animals, which has been called the “most important time in your life.”
Increased levels of stress hormones can lead pregnant mice to overeat, but affect growth of the foetus and, potentially, the long term health of the offspring, according to a study published today.
We know much about how embryos develop, but one key stage – implantation – has remained a mystery. Now, scientists from Cambridge have discovered a way to study and film this ‘black box’ of development.