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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.

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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
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June 11, 2012--------News Archive Return to: News Alerts


Modification of gene expression has long been linked to H19 RNA


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Molecule That Controls Placental Growth Identified

Scientists now understand how the growth of the placenta is regulated before birth by identifying the function of one of many gene fragments: miR-675

The research, published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, shows that the controlled release of a specific molecule, called miR-675, slows down growth of the placenta before birth.

RNA molecules are best known as the intermediary between the cell's DNA and the making of proteins necessary for cell function.

However, there are also many RNA molecules with functions other than encoding proteins. Babraham Institute scientists are involved in researching the role of these noncoding RNAs, including microRNAs (a type of short noncoding RNA molecule) which are important for regulating cell development and function.

The noncoding RNA H19 is one of the most abundant RNA molecules found in mammals, but until now its function was unknown.

A collaboration with academics in France, the USA and Belgium, is the first to show that a microRNA called miR-675 is 'cut out' and released from the longer H19 RNA in the placenta and that this limits placental growth.


"The function of H19 noncoding RNA has proven elusive for many years.

We have [now] shown that it appears to act as an inert molecule used to store functional miR-675 until it is required by the cell to slow placental growth.

This is a very exciting finding and reveals a new purpose for noncoding RNA. It is also intriguing that the release of miR-675 is controlled by a stress-response protein, suggesting this may be a mechanism the developing embryo can use to regulate its growth in the womb."

Dr Andrew Keniry, the Babraham Institute, lead author.


"It's interesting to see how the growth of the placenta can be regulated in this flexible way before birth.

Perhaps there are environmental signals and influences from the mother's diet on the growth of the placenta and hence the healthy baby.

It's also fascinating how an RNA that is so abundant in the cell can be a quick-release reservoir of a growth regulating small RNA, and this may be generally important for how cell growth is regulated by the environment."

Professor Wolf Reik, senior author of the paper and a Group Leader at the Babraham Institute, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

The Babraham Institute undertakes world-leading life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Professor Michael Wakelam, Director of the Babraham Institute, commented, "This research gives a new insight into how placental growth can be regulated, which is important for the health of the baby and in later life, supporting BBSRC's mission to drive advances in fundamental bioscience for better health and wellbeing." In addition to the BBSRC, this research was supported by the Wellcome Trust, the MRC, the EU, the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust and the Centre for Trophoblast Research.

Original article: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-06/babs-nii060812.php