Scientists Replicated The First Stages of Human Development

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In its earliest phase of formation, the human embryos are only tiny masses of the same cells. In order to evolve into a sophisticated individual with distinct tissues and organs, the cells must divide into different populations. In a new model developed by the researchers at the Gladstone Institutes, the scientists replicated the first stages of human development, in lab conditions, hoping to learn better how the organs form.

“When you change only a portion of the cells, they organize in a very specific manner that is reminiscent of different ways that cells organize in the early embryo to create complex tissue,” said Ashley Libby, the study’s leading author. “In this study, we focused on mechanical changes, things that influence how cells interact with one another,” she added, cited by Phys.

The scientists employed a variation of CRISPR genome editing to turn off or silence one of two distinct genes in the cells. The first one, known as CDH1, keeps the cells together. Those cells with CDH1 gene turned off bind together in small groups encircled by formations of unmodified cells.

Scientists Replicated The First Stages of Human Development

However, in the other group of cells, the scientists from the Gladstone Institutes turned off the ROCK1 gene which dictates the cells’ flexibility. In the study, those cells with the silenced ROCK1 gene were too soft and got pulled to the outside by the stiffer cells with intact ROCK1 genes.

“If cells remain homogeneous, you can’t get tissues to form. An event that breaks the symmetry needs to occur to create the diverse array of cell types needed to form functioning tissues and organs. We had observed this before, but we didn’t know how to control it in an experimental study until now,” explained said Todd McDevitt, the study’s supervisor.

“Most scientists and engineers use top-down approaches to impose constraints on the system and then see how the cells respond. Instead, we’re perturbing something that’s inside of a cell, which is truer to how an organ develops,” McDevitt added.

Erin VanDyke lives on her family farm and has more than 35 years of hands-on experience with the use of livestock guard dogs for predator control. On their farm, Jan and her family use corgis as herding dogs and have raised Shetland sheep, Fainting goats, Morgan and Trakehner horses, and historic breeds of chickens and turkeys. Erin is also an active beekeeper.


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