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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.

WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform

The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a new Web site to help researchers, doctors and
patients obtain reliable information on high-quality clinical trials. Now you can go to one website and search all registers to identify clinical trial research underway around the world!




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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 Sept 25, 2014

For the first time, all 120 million babies born each year across
the world can be assessed using a common set of standards.


WHO Child Growth Charts




First international standards for infants/newborns

The FIRST international standards for fetal growth and newborn size have been developed by a global team led by scientists from Oxford University.They depict the desirable pattern of healthy growth for all babies everywhere, regardless of their ethnicity or country of birth.

These new standards provide 3rd, 10th, 50th, 90th and 97th centile curves for the growth of a baby during pregnancy (as measured by ultrasound) and for a baby's size at birth according to gestational age (weight, length and head circumference).

Now, for the first time, all 120 million babies born each year across the world can be assessed using a common set of standards, reflecting how babies should grow when mothers have adequate health, nutrition, medical care and socioeconomic status.

This means it will be possible to detect underweight and overweight babies early in life no matter where in the world they are born.

'Being able to identify millions of additional undernourished babies at birth provides an opportunity for them to receive nutritional support and targeted treatment, without which close to 5% are likely to die in their first year or develop severe, long-term health problems,' says senior author Professor José Villar of Oxford University. 'The huge improvement in health care we can achieve is unprecedented.'

The international standards – one for the growing fetus and the other for newborns – are published in two papers in the medical journal The Lancet. They were developed as part of the landmark INTERGROWTH-21st Project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which took over 300 clinicians and researchers from 27 institutions across the world six years to complete.

Poor growth in the womb resulting in small size at birth is associated with illness and death in infancy and childhood. It also impacts on adult health with increased risks of diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Smaller babies result in substantial costs for health services and they are a significant economic burden on society as a whole.

Being born overweight is also a worsening problem, particularly in developed and emerging countries, as a result of rising maternal obesity rates due to overnutrition. Overweight babies are at increased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure later in life.

At present, over 100 different, locally produced, growth charts are used around the world to assess fetal growth and newborn size. These only describe how babies grew in a particular population or region at a given time. International standards, on the other hand, describe what can be achieved with optimally healthy growth.

The researchers calculate that, each year, at least 13 million more newborns worldwide will be identified as being undernourished using their international standards. These babies are now considered 'normal', when local charts adapted for undernourished populations are used.

The INTERGROWTH-21st Project involved almost 60,000 pregnant women in eight well-defined urban areas in Brazil, China, India, Italy, Kenya, Oman, the UK and USA. From this very large number, over 4,600 healthy, well-nourished women with problem-free pregnancies were enrolled to construct the standards.

Ultrasound scans were performed every 5 weeks from early pregnancy (14 weeks' gestation) to delivery to generate the first international standards for fetal growth. Identical methods and the same ultrasound machines provided by Philips Healthcare were used in all countries.

Measurements of weight, length, and head circumference for more than 20,000 babies born between 33 and 42 weeks' gestation were used to generate the newborn standards.

This study design was the same approach taken by the WHO's Multicentre Growth Reference Study of healthy infants and children, which established the international WHO Child Growth Standards, from 0 to 5 years of age, that are now used in more than 140 countries worldwide.

Combining the WHO Child Growth Standards with the new fetal and newborn standards will provide health practitioners worldwide with clinical tools to monitor growth from early pregnancy to school.

'We have produced the first international standards describing how babies in the womb should grow when they are provided with good health care and nutrition, and are living in a healthy environment,' said Professor Stephen Kennedy of Oxford University, one of the senior authors of the study. 'We now need to work with politicians and clinicians at regional, national and international levels to introduce the new tools into practice around the world.'

'These new standards for fetal growth and newborn size, and standardised methods for comparing length/height and head circumference for gestational age, are the best ways to compare populations across the globe. We hope their widespread use will contribute to improved birth outcomes and reduced perinatal mortality and morbidity worldwide. When combined with the existing WHO Child Growth Standards, it will be possible globally to make judgements on growth and size from early pregnancy to 5 years of age.'

Zulfiqar Bhutta, professor, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan, and the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada, Chairman, INTERGROWTH-21st Project Steering Committee.

Dr Julian Robinson of Harvard Medical School adds: 'These are reliable tools to recognise inappropriate growth that can be applied to all the 120 million babies born every year in the world. In developed countries, introducing the standards will lead to more infants being diagnosed at birth as overweight and treated earlier to prevent chronic diseases later in life.'

The two Lancet papers follow the publication in July of two other papers from the INTERGROWTH-21st Project. The first in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology showed that most of the variation in the average size of babies born in different places around the world is due to socioeconomic, healthcare and nutritional differences – rather than ethnicity or country of birth. The second described a new international standard for dating pregnancy by ultrasound during the first trimester and was published in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Together these papers provide a complete package of clinical tools for use worldwide in pregnancy and the neonatal period.

In 2006, WHO published international growth standards for children younger than 5 years, which are now accepted worldwide. In the INTERGROWTH-21st Project, our aim was to complement them by developing international standards for fetuses, newborn infants, and the postnatal growth period of preterm infants.

We identified 20 486 (35%) eligible women from the 59 137 pregnant women enrolled in NCSS between May 14, 2009, and Aug 2, 2013. We calculated sex-specific observed and smoothed centiles for weight, length, and head circumference for gestational age at birth. The observed and smoothed centiles were almost identical. We present the 3rd, 10th, 50th, 90th, and 97th centile curves according to gestational age and sex.

We have developed, for routine clinical practice, international anthropometric standards to assess newborn size that are intended to complement the WHO Child Growth Standards and allow comparisons across multiethnic populations.

The study was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The scale of the project is unprecedented in this area. It involved the recruitment of almost 60,000 women, the standardisation of clinical practice of health professionals across eight study sites, the careful monitoring of equipment and data to ensure accuracy, and a team of over 300 researchers and clinicians.

Oxford University's Medical Sciences Division is one of the largest biomedical research centres in Europe, with over 2,500 people involved in research and more than 2,800 students. The University is rated the best in the world for medicine, and it is home to the UK's top-ranked medical school.

From the genetic and molecular basis of disease to the latest advances in neuroscience, Oxford is at the forefront of medical research. It has one of the largest clinical trial portfolios in the UK and great expertise in taking discoveries from the lab into the clinic. Partnerships with the local NHS Trusts enable patients to benefit from close links between medical research and healthcare delivery.

A great strength of Oxford medicine is its long-standing network of clinical research units in Asia and Africa, enabling world-leading research on the most pressing global health challenges such as malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS and flu. Oxford is also renowned for its large-scale studies which examine the role of factors such as smoking, alcohol and diet on cancer, heart disease and other conditions.

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