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Welcome to The Visible Embryo, a comprehensive educational resource on human development from conception to birth.

The Visible Embryo provides visual references for changes in fetal development throughout pregnancy and can be navigated via fetal development or maternal changes.

The National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development awarded Phase I and Phase II Small Business Innovative Research Grants to develop The Visible Embryo in 1993 as a first generation internet teaching tool consolidating human embryology teaching for first year medical students.

Today, The Visible Embryo is linked to over 600 educational institutions and is viewed by more than 1 million visitors each month. The field of early embryology has grown to include the identification of the stem cell as not only critical to organogenesis in the embryo, but equally critical to organ function and repair in the adult human.

Identification of genetic malfunction, inflammatory response, and progression in chronic disease begins with an understanding of primary cellular and systemic function manifest in the study of early embryology.

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Pregnancy Timeline by SemestersFemale Reproductive SystemFertilizationThe Appearance of SomitesFirst TrimesterSecond TrimesterThird TrimesterFetal liver is producing blood cellsHead may position into pelvisBrain convolutions beginFull TermWhite fat begins to be madeWhite fat begins to be madeHead may position into pelvisImmune system beginningImmune system beginningPeriod of rapid brain growthBrain convolutions beginLungs begin to produce surfactantSensory brain waves begin to activateSensory brain waves begin to activateInner Ear Bones HardenBone marrow starts making blood cellsBone marrow starts making blood cellsBrown fat surrounds lymphatic systemFetal sexual organs visibleFinger and toe prints appearFinger and toe prints appearHeartbeat can be detectedHeartbeat can be detectedBasic Brain Structure in PlaceThe Appearance of SomitesFirst Detectable Brain WavesA Four Chambered HeartBeginning Cerebral HemispheresEnd of Embryonic PeriodEnd of Embryonic PeriodFirst Thin Layer of Skin AppearsThird TrimesterDevelopmental Timeline
Click weeks 0 - 40 and follow fetal growth
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November 27, 2012--------News Archive Return to: News Alerts

WHO Child Growth Charts


Advancing Use of Stem Cells in Personalized Medicine

Johns Hopkins researchers report concrete steps in the use of human stem cells to test how diseased cells respond to drugs. Their success highlights a pathway toward faster, cheaper drug development for some genetic illnesses, as well as the ability to pre-test a therapy's safety and effectiveness on cultured clones of a patient's own cells

The project began several years ago, when Gabsang Lee, D.V.M., Ph.D., assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Institute for Cell Engineering, was a postdoctoral fellow at Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York.

The work was published November 25, 2012 in Nature Biotechnology.

To see if induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)
could be used to make specialized disease cells for
quick and easy drug testing, Lee and colleagues
extracted skin cells from a person with a rare
genetic disease called Riley-Day syndrome,
which affects only one type of nerve cell
that is difficult if not impossible to extract
directly from a traditional biopsy.

These traits made Riley-Day an ideal candidate for alternative ways of generating cells for study.

In a so-called "proof of concept" experiment, researchers biochemically reprogrammed the skin cells from the patient to form iPSCs, which can grow into any cell type in the body. The team then induced the iPSCs to grow into nerve cells.

"Because we could study the nerve cells directly, we could for the first time see exactly what was going wrong in this disease," says Lee. Some symptoms of Riley-Day syndrome are insensitivity to pain, episodes of vomiting, poor coordination and seizures; only about half of affected patients reach age 30.

In the recent research at Johns Hopkins and Memorial
Sloan-Kettering, Lee and his co-workers used these same
lab-grown Riley-Day nerve cells to screen about 7,000
drugs for their effects on the diseased cells.

With the aid of a robot programmed to analyze the effects,
the researchers quickly identified eight compounds for
further testing, of which one — SKF-86466 —
ultimately showed promise for stopping or reversing
the disease process at the cellular level.

Lee says a clinical trial with SKF-86466 might not be feasible because of the small number of Riley-Day patients worldwide, but suggests that a closely related version of the compound, one that has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for another use, could be employed for the patients after a few tests.

The implications of the experiment reach beyond Riley-Day syndrome, however. "There are many rare, 'orphan' genetic diseases that will never be addressed through the costly current model of drug development," Lee explains. "We've shown that there may be another way forward to treat these illnesses."

Another application of the new stem cell process could be
treatments tailored not only to an illness, but also
to an individual patient.

That is, iPSCs could be made for a patient, then used
to create a laboratory culture of pancreatic cells,
in the case of a patient with type 1 diabetes.

The efficacy and safety of various drugs could then be
tested on the cultured cells, and doctors could use the
results to help determine the best treatment.

"This approach could move much of the trial-and-error process of beginning a new treatment from the patient to the petri dish, and help people to get better faster," says Lee.

Other authors of the paper are Christina N. Ramirez, Ph.D., Nadja Zeltner, Ph.D., Becky Liu, Constantin Radu, M.S., Bhavneet Bhinder, Hakim Djaballah, Ph.D., and Lorenz Studer, Ph.D., of the Sloan-Kettering Institute; and Hyesoo Kim, Ph.D., Young Jun Kim, M.D., Ph.D., InYoung Choi, Ph.D., and Bipasha Mukherjee-Clavin of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The work was supported by funds from New York State Stem Cell Science (NYSTEM), the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF), the state of Maryland (TEDCO, MSCRF), the Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research, the Experimental Therapeutics Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the William Randolph Hearst Fund in Experimental Therapeutics, the L.S. Wells Foundation, and the National Cancer Institute (grant number 5 P30 CA008748-44).

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