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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. Initally designed to evaluate the internet as a teaching tool for first year medical students, The Visible Embryo is linked to over 600 educational institutions and is viewed by more than one million visitors each month.

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. The identification and understanding of genetic malfunction, inflammatory responses, and the progression in chronic disease, begins with a grounding in primary cellular and systemic functions manifested in the study of the early embryo.

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Pregnancy Timeline by SemestersFetal 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 HemispheresFemale Reproductive SystemEnd of Embryonic PeriodEnd of Embryonic PeriodFirst Thin Layer of Skin AppearsThird TrimesterSecond TrimesterFirst TrimesterFertilizationDevelopmental Timeline
CLICK ON weeks 0 - 40 and follow along every 2 weeks of fetal development
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Home | Pregnancy Timeline | News Alerts | News Archive July 12, 2013

 

RNA hammerhead

Structure of a hammerhead ribozyme, a ribozyme that cuts RNA

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons







WHO Child Growth Charts

 

 

 

Mystery RNA sequences decoded in gene regulation

First-ever compendium of RNA sequences will be important guide to understanding the root of genetic diseases.

Scientists know that much of what a gene does occurs immediately after it is turned on. A gene first produces a molecule called RNA, which then binds to tiny proteins called RNA binding proteins (RBPs) to control its fate. Some of these proteins cut parts of the RNA molecule, while other RBPs destroy the RNA before it even produces a protein.

But these mechanisms have been difficult to decipher. To fully understand gene regulation (and disregulation, as in the case of disease), scientists employ advanced lab techniques and data analysis to identify patterns in RNA sequences.

This gap in knowledge motivated a team of researchers, co-led by Senior Fellow Tim Hughes of the University of Toronto and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, to produce the first-ever compendium of RNA-binding sequences, published in Nature on July 11, 2013.

"It took us a long time to generate and analyze the data," explains Hughes. "After spending years developing and perfecting a method, we started comparing all the proteins in humans, fruit flies and other complex organisms that bind RNA — and found common binding sequences. Our compendium of RNA-binding sequences can now act as a resource for researchers in this field, and will be especially useful in human genetic analysis."

The team found that humans and fruit flies have similar RBPs, since they both derive from a common ancestor, and that in many cases, have essentially the same binding sequences. "We looked at just over 200 proteins in total, but can probably infer the preference for tens of thousands of proteins in many other organisms," says Hughes.


Many of the sequences similar across species were at the end of the RNA transcript, a region associated with regulation of RNA decay or movement of RNA to other parts of the cell. "This indicates that there is probably more regulation of gene expression dependent upon the level of stability or destruction of RNA," explains Hughes.

One major insight was garnered about a well-studied protein, RBFOX1, which is known to have a function in regulating RNA splicing — and to be decreased in autism. The team's findings suggest that RBFOX1 regulates the expression level of nervous-system-related genes in brains with autism by making RNA more stable.


The underlying causes of disease are more complicated than a single gene not working correctly, added Hughes.

The next steps for the team are to expand their compendium to encompass all complex organisms. Frey also hopes to build models that will more accurately portray observed gene expression patterns.

The study was a large collaborative effort, supported in part by CIFAR, that involved Senior Fellows Brendan Frey (U of T) and Andrew Fraser (U of T) and Global Scholar Alumnus Matthew Weirauch (Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center) in CIFAR's Genetic Networks program. Hamed Najafabadi (U of T), a postdoctoral fellow who performed much of the analysis in this study, was partially funded by CIFAR.

This work was supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, CIFAR, and Human Frontier Science Program.

About CIFAR
Established in 1982, CIFAR is an independent research institute comprising nearly 400 researchers from more than 100 academic institutions in 16 countries. The Genetic Networks program is one of CIFAR's multidisciplinary global research networks that is devoted to discovering how genes interact with one another, research that could identify the root causes of many complex genetic diseases, and lead to new treatments and preventive measures.

Original press release:http://www.cifar.ca/scientists-decode-mystery-sequences-involved-in-gene-regulation