Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Embryology


Sperm are highly differentiated and the activities that reprogram them for embryonic development during fertilization have historically been considered unique to the oocyte. We here challenge this view and demonstrate that mouse embryos in the mitotic cell cycle can also directly reprogram sperm for full-term development. Developmentally incompetent haploid embryos (parthenogenotes) injected with sperm developed to produce healthy offspring at up to 24% of control rates, depending when in the embryonic cell cycle injection took place. This implies that most of the first embryonic cell cycle can be bypassed in sperm genome reprogramming for full development. Remodelling of histones and genomic 5'-methylcytosine and 5'-hydroxymethylcytosine following embryo injection were distinct from remodelling in fertilization and the resulting 2-cell embryos consistently possessed abnormal transcriptomes. These studies demonstrate plasticity in the reprogramming of terminally differentiated sperm nuclei and suggest that different epigenetic pathways or kinetics can establish totipotency.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Cell nucleus, Embryo, Developmental biology, Embryology, Meiosis, Zygote


Among primates, human neonates have the largest brains but also the highest proportion of body fat. If placental nutrient supply is limited, the fetus faces a dilemma: should resources be allocated to brain growth, or to fat deposition for use as a potential postnatal energy reserve? We hypothesised that resolving this dilemma operates at the level of umbilical blood distribution entering the fetal liver. In 381 uncomplicated pregnancies in third trimester, we measured blood flow perfusing the fetal liver, or bypassing it via the ductus venosus to supply the brain and heart using ultrasound techniques. Across the range of fetal growth and independent of the mother’s adiposity and parity, greater liver blood flow was associated with greater offspring fat mass measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, both in the infant at birth (r = 0.43, P<0.001) and at age 4 years (r = 0.16, P = 0.02). In contrast, smaller placentas less able to meet fetal demand for essential nutrients were associated with a brain-sparing flow pattern (r = 0.17, p = 0.02). This flow pattern was also associated with a higher degree of shunting through ductus venosus (P = 0.04). We propose that humans evolved a developmental strategy to prioritize nutrient allocation for prenatal fat deposition when the supply of conditionally essential nutrients requiring hepatic inter-conversion is limited, switching resource allocation to favour the brain if the supply of essential nutrients is limited. Facilitated placental transfer mechanisms for glucose and other nutrients evolved in environments less affluent than those now prevalent in developed populations, and we propose that in circumstances of maternal adiposity and nutrient excess these mechanisms now also lead to prenatal fat deposition. Prenatal developmental influences play important roles in the human propensity to deposit fat.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Childbirth, Infant, Embryo, Fetus, Liver, Embryology, Glycerol


The current study aimed to evaluate the effects of phosalone (PLN) as an organophosphate (OP) compound on testicular tissue, hormonal alterations and embryo development in rats.

Concepts: Embryo, In vitro fertilisation, Embryology


There are considerable variations in the anatomy of the human ophthalmic artery (OphA), such as anomalous origins of the OphA and anastomoses between the OphA and the adjacent arteries. These anatomical variations seem to attribute to complex embryology of the OphA. In human embryos and fetuses, primitive dorsal and ventral ophthalmic arteries (PDOphA and PVOphA) form the ocular branches, and the supraorbital division of the stapedial artery forms the orbital branches of the OphA, and then numerous anastomoses between the internal carotid artery (ICA) and the external carotid artery (ECA) systems emerge in connection with the OphA. These developmental processes can produce anatomical variations of the OphA, and we should notice these variations for neurosurgical and neurointerventional procedures.

Concepts: Embryo, Developmental biology, Internal carotid artery, Common carotid artery, External carotid artery, Embryology, Arteries of the head and neck, Ophthalmic artery


Remodelling of the human embryo at implantation is indispensable for successful pregnancy. Yet it has remained mysterious because of the experimental hurdles that beset the study of this developmental phase. Here, we establish an in vitro system to culture human embryos through implantation stages in the absence of maternal tissues and reveal the key events of early human morphogenesis. These include segregation of the pluripotent embryonic and extra-embryonic lineages, and morphogenetic rearrangements leading to generation of a bilaminar disc, formation of a pro-amniotic cavity within the embryonic lineage, appearance of the prospective yolk sac, and trophoblast differentiation. Using human embryos and human pluripotent stem cells, we show that the reorganization of the embryonic lineage is mediated by cellular polarization leading to cavity formation. Together, our results indicate that the critical remodelling events at this stage of human development are embryo-autonomous, highlighting the remarkable and unanticipated self-organizing properties of human embryos.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Embryo, Fetus, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Cellular differentiation, Embryology, Developmental psychology


Implantation of the blastocyst is a developmental milestone in mammalian embryonic development. At this time, a coordinated program of lineage diversification, cell-fate specification, and morphogenetic movements establishes the generation of extra-embryonic tissues and the embryo proper, and determines the conditions for successful pregnancy and gastrulation. Despite its basic and clinical importance, this process remains mysterious in humans. Here we report the use of a novel in vitro system to study the post-implantation development of the human embryo. We unveil the self-organizing abilities and autonomy of in vitro attached human embryos. We find human-specific molecular signatures of early cell lineage, timing, and architecture. Embryos display key landmarks of normal development, including epiblast expansion, lineage segregation, bi-laminar disc formation, amniotic and yolk sac cavitation, and trophoblast diversification. Our findings highlight the species-specificity of these developmental events and provide a new understanding of early human embryonic development beyond the blastocyst stage. In addition, our study establishes a new model system relevant to early human pregnancy loss. Finally, our work will also assist in the rational design of differentiation protocols of human embryonic stem cells to specific cell types for disease modelling and cell replacement therapy.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Embryo, Developmental biology, Cellular differentiation, Embryonic stem cell, Embryology, Implantation, Inner cell mass


The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans possesses a simple embryonic nervous system comprising 222 neurons, a number small enough that the growth of each cell could be followed to provide a systems-level view of development. However, studies of single cell development have largely been conducted in fixed or pre-twitching live embryos, because of technical difficulties associated with embryo movement in late embryogenesis. We present open source untwisting and annotation software which allows the investigation of neurodevelopmental events in post-twitching embryos, and apply them to track the 3D positions of seam cells, neurons, and neurites in multiple elongating embryos. The detailed positional information we obtained enabled us to develop a composite model showing movement of these cells and neurites in an “average” worm embryo. The untwisting and cell tracking capability we demonstrate provides a foundation on which to catalog C. elegans neurodevelopment, allowing interrogation of developmental events in previously inaccessible periods of embryogenesis.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Embryo, Developmental biology, Caenorhabditis elegans, Animal, Model organism, Embryology


Bacterial colonization of the fetal membranes and its role in pathogenesis of membrane rupture is poorly understood. Prior retrospective work revealed chorion layer thinning in preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) subjects. Our objective was to prospectively examine fetal membrane chorion thinning and to correlate to bacterial presence in PPROM, preterm, and term subjects.

Concepts: Immune system, Cell membrane, Obstetrics, Embryology, Premature rupture of membranes, Membrane, Rupture of membranes, Amnion


Although some research suggests that fetuses yawn, others disagree arguing that is it simple mouth opening. Furthermore there is no developmental account of fetal yawning compared with simple mouth opening. The aim of the present study was to establish in a repeated measures design the development of fetal yawning compared with simple mouth opening.

Concepts: Embryo, Uterus, Developmental biology, Embryology, Placenta, Repeated measures design


Tight control over the segregation of endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm is essential for normal embryonic development of all species, yet how neighboring embryonic blastomeres can contribute to different germ layers has never been fully explained. We postulated that microRNAs, which fine-tune many biological processes, might modulate the response of embryonic blastomeres to growth factors and other signals that govern germ layer fate. A systematic screen of a whole-genome microRNA library revealed that the let-7 and miR-18 families increase mesoderm at the expense of endoderm in mouse embryonic stem cells. Both families are expressed in ectoderm and mesoderm, but not endoderm, as these tissues become distinct during mouse and frog embryogenesis. Blocking let-7 function in vivo dramatically affected cell fate, diverting presumptive mesoderm and ectoderm into endoderm. siRNA knockdown of computationally predicted targets followed by mutational analyses revealed that let-7 and miR-18 down-regulate Acvr1b and Smad2, respectively, to attenuate Nodal responsiveness and bias blastomeres to ectoderm and mesoderm fates. These findings suggest a crucial role for the let-7 and miR-18 families in germ layer specification and reveal a remarkable conservation of function from amphibians to mammals.

Concepts: Embryo, Developmental biology, Mesoderm, Embryology, Endoderm, Embryogenesis, Germ layer, Organogenesis