Artificial Womb Development Progress

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

British scientists have developed an artificial womb in which they have grown mouse embryos. A Nottingham University team led by professor of tissue engineering, Kevin Shakesheff, has created a new device in the form of a soft polymer bowl which mimics the soft tissue of the mammalian uterus in which the embryo implants. Their research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

This new method has allowed scientists to see critical aspects of embryonic development that have never been seen in this way before. For the first time it has been possible to grow embryos outside the body of the mother, using a mouse model, for just long enough to observe in real time processes of growth during a crucial stage between the fourth and eighth days of development.

The experiments have a clear relevance to artificial reproduction in humans. “We hope this work will unlock further secrets which could improve medical treatments that require tissues to regenerate and also open up more opportunities to improve IVF,” says Professor Shakesheff. “In the future we hope to develop more technologies which will allow developmental biologists to understand how our tissue forms."

Shakesheff added: "Everyone reading this article grew themselves from a single cell. With weeks of the embryo forming all of the major tissues and organs are formed and starting to function. If we could harness this remarkable ability of the human body to self-form then we could design new medical treatments that cure diseases that are currently untreatable. For example, diseases and defects of the heart could be reversed if we could recreate the process by which cardiac muscle forms and gets wired into the blood and nervous system."

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