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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 ' million visitors each month.


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Pregnancy Timeline by SemestersFemale Reproductive SystemFertilizationThe Appearance of SomitesFirst TrimesterSecond TrimesterThird TrimesterFetal 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 HemispheresEnd of Embryonic PeriodEnd of Embryonic PeriodFirst Thin Layer of Skin AppearsThird TrimesterDevelopmental Timeline
Click weeks 0 - 40 and follow fetal growth
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June 8, 2012--------News Archive Return to: News Alerts


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Fetal Cells Can Migrate Into Mom During Pregnancy

Some mothers literally carry pieces of their children in their bodies

A pregnant woman's blood stream contains not only her own cells, but a small number of her child's, as well, and some of them remain in her internal organs long after the baby is born.

Understanding the origin and identity of these cells is vital to understanding their potential effects on a mother's long-term health. For example, fetal cells have been found at tumor sites in mothers, but it is unknown whether the cells are helping to destroy the tumor or to speed its growth.

Three types of fetal cells have now been identified in the lungs of late-term pregnant mice by a team led by Dr. Diana Bianchi of Tufts Medical Center. The research, published 6 June 2012 in Biology of Reproduction's Papers-in-Press, used publicly available databases to extract important genetic information from as few as 80 fetal cells. A combination of two different analytical techniques to characterize the rare fetal cells revealed a mixed population of (1) trophoblasts (placental cells that provide nutrients to the fetus), (2) mesenchymal stem cells (cells that later develop into fat, cartilage, or bone cells), and (3) immune system cells.

Researchers suspect that fetal cells in a mother's blood stream help her immune system tolerate and not attack the fetus.

The detection of trophoblasts and immune cells in the maternal lung should aid future studies on this subject, as well as research into pregnancy-related complications like preeclampsia.

The presence of fetal mesenchymal stem cells corresponds with previous studies that reported fetal and placental cells differentiating to repair injured maternal organs in both mice and humans.

Using this team's techniques of gene expression analysis, researchers should now be better able to identify the types of cells present in maternal organs and in doing so determine their potential short- and long-term effects on a mother's internal systems.

Biology of Reproduction, published by the Society for the Study of Reproduction, is a top-rated peer-reviewed research journal in the field of reproductive biology.

Pritchard S, Wick HC, Slonim DK, Johnson KL, Bianchi DW. Comprehensive analysis of genes expressed by rare microchimeric fetal cells in maternal lung. Biol Reprod 2012; (in press). Published online ahead of print 6 June 2012; DOI 10.1095/biolreprod.112.101147.

Original article: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-06/sfts-tto060112.php