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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 Dec 18, 2013

 

In the right column, four images confirm the successful in vivo reprogramming
of somatic liver cells (blue) into stem cells (pink), versus a control (left column).

Image Credit: JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments







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New technique for stem cell creation

A novel technique could resolve a snag in stem cell research for application in regenerative medicine—a new strategy for reprograming cells in vivo to act like stem cells that forgoes the risk of causing tumors.

The work is published  in JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments.


"We have induced somatic cells within the liver of adult mice to transiently behave as pluripotent stem cells.

"This was done by transfer of four specific genes — previously described by the Nobel-prize winning Shinya Yamanaka — without the use of viruses but simply plasmid DNA [a small circular, double-stranded piece of DNA used for manipulating gene expression in a cell]."


Dr. Kostas Kostarelos, principal investigator, Nanomedicine Lab, University of Manchester, United Kingdom


Dr. Kostas Kostarelos, at the University of Manchester, said that he and his colleagues have discovered a safe approach to reprogramming somatic cells (which constitute most of the cells in the body) into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Research in this field has been embraced as an alternative to the controversial use of embryonic stem cells.


The technique comes as an alternative to Dr. Shinya Yamanaka's reprograming methods, which won him the Nobel prize in 2012.

Dr. Yamanaka's approach involved reprogramming somatic cells in vitro by introducing four genes through the use of a virus.


While promising, the use of Dr. Yamanaka's method has been limited. As Dr. Kostarelos states: "One of the central dogmas of this emerging field is that in vivo implantation of [these stem] cells will lead to their uncontrolled differentiation and the formation of a tumor-like mass."

Dr. Kostarelos and his team have determined that their technique does not share the risk of uncontrolled stem cell growth into tumors as seen in in vitro, viral-based methods. "[This is the] only experimental technique to report the in vivo reprogramming of adult somatic cells to pluripotency using non-viral, transient, rapid and safe methods," Kostarelos said.


The Nanomedicine Lab's approach involves injecting large volumes of plasmid DNA to reprogram cells. However, because plasmid DNA is short-lived in this scenario, the risk of uncontrolled growth is reduced.


The research group chose to publish their technique with JoVE as a means to emphasize the novelty, uniqueness and simplicity of their procedure.

Along with their article, a demonstration of their technique has been published as a peer-reviewed video to ensure the proper replication of this technique by other researchers in the field.

Abstract
Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells that result from the reprogramming of somatic cells to a pluripotent state by forced expression of defined factors are offering new opportunities for regenerative medicine. Such clinical applications of iPS cells have been limited so far, mainly due to the poor efficiency of the existing reprogramming methodologies and the risk of the generated iPS cells to form tumors upon implantation.

We hypothesized that the reprogramming of somatic cells towards pluripotency could be achieved in vivo by gene transfer of reprogramming factors. In order to efficiently reprogram cells in vivo, high levels of the Yamanaka (OKSM) transcription factors need to be expressed at the target tissue. This can be achieved by using different viral or nonviral gene vectors depending on the target tissue. In this particular study, hydrodynamic tail-vein (HTV) injection of plasmid DNA was used to deliver the OKSM factors to mouse hepatocytes. This provided proof-of-evidence of in vivo reprogramming of adult, somatic cells towards a pluripotent state with high efficiency and fast kinetics. Furthermore no tumor or teratoma formation was observed in situ.

It can be concluded that reprogramming somatic cells in vivo may offer a potential approach to induce enhanced pluripotency rapidly, efficiently, and safely compared to in vitro performed protocols and can be applied to different tissue types in the future.

Authors
Yilmazer, A., de Lázaro, I., Bussy, C., Kostarelos, K.

Article
In vivo Reprogramming of Adult Somatic Cells to Pluripotency by Overexpression of Yamanaka Factors. J. Vis. Exp. (82), e50837, doi:10.3791/50837 (2013).

About JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments:
JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, is the first and only PubMed/MEDLINE-indexed, peer-reviewed journal devoted to publishing scientific research in a video format. Using an international network of videographers, JoVE films and edits videos of researchers performing new experimental techniques at top universities, allowing students and scientists to learn them much more quickly. As of December 2013, JoVE has published video-protocols from an international community of more than 9,300 authors in the fields of biology, medicine, chemistry, and physics.