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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 Sep 18, 2013


Female rats that received simulated childbirth injury (vaginal distension) and MSCs, showed homing of the MSCs to the urethra and vagina, facilitating their recovery of continence.

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Mesenchymal stem cell transplant may heal childbirth injury

Vaginal delivery presents the possibility of injury for mothers that can lead to "stress urinary incontinence" (SUI), a condition affecting from four to 35 percent of women who have had babies via vaginal delivery. Many current treatments, such as physiotherapy and surgery, are not very effective.

MSCs may offer off-the-shelf therapy, with no rejection issues. Seeking better methods to alleviate SUI, researchers carried out a study in which female laboratory rats modeled with simulated childbirth injuries received injections of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs; multipotent cells found in connective tissues that can differentiate into a variety of cell types including: bone, cartilage and fat cells) to see if the cells would home to and help to repair the damaged pelvic organs.

The study appears as an early e-publication for the journal Cell Transplantation, and is now freely available on-line at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/cog/ct/pre-prints/content-cog_09636897_ct0957dissaranan.

"Stem cell-based therapy has recently gained attention as a promising treatment for SUI. Stem cell therapies may be more feasible and less invasive than current therapies."

Dr. Margot S. Damaser, study co-author, Cleveland Clinic's Department of Biomedical Engineering

The current study extends the results of the researcher's previous work by demonstrating that transplanted MSCs engrafted to the animals' spleens. This suggested that transplanted cells could have a beneficial impact due to the release of trophic factors, agents that stimulate differentiation and cell survival, and then engraft to the smooth muscle of the urethra and vagina.

"Our results suggest a potential therapy for postpartum SUI," said Dr. Damaser.

The group of female rats that received simulated childbirth injury through vaginal distension, also showed homing of MSCs to the urethra and vagina, facilitating their recovery of continence.

Researchers noted that other kinds of stem cells from different sources have been used in additonal studies aimed at treating SUI via stem cell transplant. Autologous (self-donated) muscle-derived stem cells have demonstrated therapeutic potential for SUI in animal models—and in clinical trials. Adipose (fat)-derived stem cells have also been used to improve urethral function after simulated childbirth injury in rats.

This study used MSCs, cells which are believed to be "immune-privileged," with no rejection issues. The advantage in this, said the researchers, is that MSCs may have potential as an "off-the-shelf" therapy.

"Since rat MSCs were used in this study, the results can only be applied to rat models of injury-treated rats," explained Dr. Damaser. "Human adult stem cells need to be investigated in future studies to see if these findings also apply to humans."

The researchers suggested that their work also has potential to develop into a therapy for older women with SUI at a time "remote from delivery."

"This study provides evidence that mesenchymal stem cell transplantation could favorably impact a side effect of delivery and aging by releasing factors that can influence the urethra and vagina to treat stress urinary incontinence. Further studies are required to confirm that this animal study translates to humans."

Dr Amit N. Patel, director of cardiovascular regenerative medicine, University of Utah, section editor for Cell Transplantation.

PURPOSE: Vaginal delivery is a risk factor for stress urinary incontinence (SUI). Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) home to injured organs and can facilitate repair. The goal of this study was to determine if MSCs home to pelvic organs after simulated childbirth injury and facilitate recovery from SUI via paracrine factors.MATERIALS and METHODS: Three experiments were performed. Eighteen female rats received vaginal distension (VD) or sham VD and labeled intravenous (IV) MSCs to investigate if MSCs home to pelvic organs. Whole-organ imaging and immunofluorescence were performed 1 week later. Thirty-four female rats received VD and IV MSCs, VD and IV saline, or sham VD and IV saline to investigate if MSCs accelerate recovery of continence. Twenty-nine female rats received VD and periurethral concentrated conditioned media (CCM), VD and periurethral control media, or sham VD and periurethral control media to investigate if factors secreted by MSCs accelerate recovery from VD. Urethral histology and function were assessed 1 week later.RESULTS: Significantly more MSCs were observed in the urethra, vagina, and spleen after VD compared to sham VD. Continence as measured by leak point pressure (LPP), was significantly reduced after VD in rats treated with saline or control media compared to sham VD but not in those given MSCs or CCM. External urethral sphincter function as measured by electromyography (EMG), was not improved with MSCs or CCM. Rats treated with MSCs or CCM demonstrated an increase in elastin fibers near the EUS and urethral smooth muscle more similar to that of sham injured animals than rats treated with saline or control media.CONCLUSIONS: MSCs home to the urethra and vagina and facilitate recovery of continence most likely via secretion of paracrine factors. Both MSCs and CCM have promise as novel noninvasive therapies for SUI.

Original press releas: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-09/ru-msa091013.php