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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 Oct 17, 2013

 

The new method allows the cell material from mice to grow
vividly into picturesque tree-like structures.

Image Credit: Anne Grapin-Botton







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New 3D method used to grow miniature pancreas

An international team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen have successfully developed an innovative 3D method to grow miniature pancreas from progenitor cells.

Their future goal is to use this model to help in the fight against diabetes. The research results has just been published in the scientific journal Development. The new method allows the cell material from mice to grow vividly in picturesque tree-like structures. Click for image in high resolution.


Professor Anne Grapin-Botton and her team at the Danish Stem Cell Centre have developed a three-dimensional culture method which enables the efficient expansion of pancreatic cells.

The new method allows the cell material from mice to grow vividly in picturesque tree-like structures. The method offers huge long term potential in producing miniature human pancreas from human stem cells.

These human miniature organs would be valuable as models to test new drugs fast and effective – and without the use of animal models.


"The new method allows the cell material to take a three-dimensional shape enabling them to multiply more freely. It’s like a plant where you use effective fertilizer, think of the laboratory like a garden and the scientist being the gardener,” says Anne Grapin-Botton.

Social cells
The cells do not thrive and develop if they are alone, and a minimum of four pancreatic cells close together is required for subsequent organoid development.


“We found that the cells of the pancreas develop better in a gel in three-dimensions than when they are attached and flattened at the bottom of a culture plate. Under optimal conditions, the initial clusters of a few cells have proliferated into 40,000 cells within a week. After growing a lot, they transform into cells that make either digestive enzymes or hormones like insulin and they self-organize into branched pancreatic organoids that are amazingly similar to the pancreas.”

Anne Grapin-Botton, Professor, Danish Stem Cell Centre

The scientists used this system to discover that the cells of the pancreas are sensitive to their physical environment such as the stiffness of the gel and to contact with other cells.


The research results has just been published in the scientific journal Development.

Pancreas and diabetes connection
An effective cellular therapy for diabetes is dependent on the production of sufficient quantities of functional beta-cells. Recent studies have enabled the production of pancreatic precursors but efforts to expand these cells and differentiate them into insulin-producing beta-cells have proved a challenge.

“We think this is an important step towards the production of cells for diabetes therapy, both to produce mini-organs for drug testing and insulin-producing cells as spare parts. We show that the pancreatic cells care not only about how you feed them but need to be grown in the right physical environment. We are now trying to adapt this method to human stem cells,” adds Anne Grapin-Botton.

Summary
In the context of a cellular therapy for diabetes, methods for pancreatic progenitor expansion and subsequent differentiation into insulin-producing beta cells would be extremely valuable. Here we establish three-dimensional culture conditions in Matrigel that enable the efficient expansion of dissociated mouse embryonic pancreatic progenitors. By manipulating the medium composition we generate either hollow spheres, which are mainly composed of pancreatic progenitors, or complex organoids that spontaneously undergo pancreatic morphogenesis and differentiation. The in vitro maintenance and expansion of pancreatic progenitors require active Notch and FGF signaling, thus recapitulating in vivo niche signaling interactions. Our experiments reveal new aspects of pancreas development, such as a community effect by which small groups of cells better maintain progenitor properties and expand more efficiently than isolated cells, as well as the requirement for three-dimensionality. Finally, growth conditions in chemically defined biomaterials pave the way for testing the biophysical and biochemical properties of the niche that sustains pancreatic progenitors.

Original press release:
http://news.ku.dk/all_news/2013/2013.10/new_3d_method_used_to_grow_miniature_pancreas/