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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
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Home | Pregnancy Timeline | News Alerts | News Archive July 18, 2013

 

Autophagy, or autophagocytosis, is the mechanism by which a cell recycles unnecessary or dysfunctional components. During this process, targeted components are held within the autophagosomes, which then fuse with lysosomes and are degraded or recycled. In disease, autophagy has been seen as an adaptive response to survival, otherwise it appears to promote cell death and morbidity.




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Molecular switch controls destiny of self-eating cells

A collaboration of scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, University of Michigan, and University of California San Diego, USA, interested in finding out whether autophagy can be affected by events in the cell nucleus discovered that a signal chain in the nucleus serves as a kind of molecular switch that determines whether the cell dies or survives.

Their results are published in Nature.

Put simply autophagy is a process whereby the cell consumes parts of itself, and is a way for it to clean up abnormal lumps of proteins and rid itself of damaged organelles (the cell's 'organs') by breaking them down. The cell also uses the process when stressed by external circumstances, such as starvation, to keep itself alive until better times. So while autophagy can protect the cell, it can also lead to its death. However, just how the choice between life and death is controlled has remained a mystery.

Autophagy is involved in numerous diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammations, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, as well as in physiological adaptation to exercise, the development of the immune system and ageing.

"Given the role of autophagy in human disease, all we have to do is select a disease model and test whether there's anything to be gained from influencing the new signal network that we've identified," says Dr Bertrand Joseph at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Oncology-Pathology, who headed the study.


To date, autophagy has mainly been considered a process in the cell's cytoplasm; the present study can completely overturn this view since the results indicate that events in the cell nucleus play an essential part in controlling the process once it has started.

The DNA in the cell nucleus is packed around so-called histone proteins, on which different enzymes can attach acetyl groups.

Such histone modification is a type of epigenetic regulation, which can influence gene expression without changing the DNA sequence. The modification of histones is a dynamic process, since some enzymes add the acetyl groups and other enzymes remove them.


The researchers studied how the outcome of the autophagy was affected by the acetylation of histone H4, and found that during the processes the acetylation of H4 decreased, which led to a reduction in the expression of autophagy-related genes. If this specific histone modification was blocked, the autophagic cells died.

"Our findings open up avenues for influencing autophagy," says Dr Joseph.

The research groups at Karolinska Institutet involved in the study are financed by grants from the Children's Cancer Foundation, the Swedish Cancer Society, the Swedish Research Council, and the Cancer Society in Stockholm.

Publication: 'The histone H4 lysine 16 acetyltransferase hMOF regulates the outcome of autophagy', Jens Füllgrabe, Melinda A. Lynch-Day, Nina Heldring, Wenbo Li, Robert B. Struijk, Qi Ma, Ola Hermanson, Michael G. Rosenfeld, Daniel J. Klionsky, and Bertrand Joseph, Nature AOP 17 July 2013, doi: 10.1038/nature12313.

Original press release:http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-07/ki-msc071513.php