Embryos and Stem Cells: the Science of the Future
Mary Lobeck (12:00 Micro) found an article on stem cells and embryonic development from Science Daily. As an aside, the Bio department at York College is currently conducting a faculty search for a developmental biologist, and as a result I have heard learned that gastrulation is the most important event in our brief lives. Here is Mary’s summary:
At the University of Cambridge in England, research have been trying to learn more about the development of mammals through embryonic stem cell research. Recently, they have figured out how to form an embryo from a certain amount of stems cells; which they have called the “critical mass of cells,” where the embryo begins to self-organize and develop. This research is leading to more knowledge about the development of all organisms; especially humans.
According to the scientists conducting this experiment, every organism originates from a single cell that divides into many cells, called the embryo. Soon after formation of the embryo it begins to form an axis, which is the beginning structure that the embryo develops along. This is an asymmetrical formation of specialized cells that then begins to divide into the differing types of tissues found in the body, known as gastrulation. The leading researcher, Professor Alfonso Martinez-Arias, said that “Gastrulation was described by biologist Professor Lewis Wolpert as being ‘truly the most important event in your life’ because it creates the blueprint of an organism.” At the University of Cambridge, they have recreated these processes in the lab for the first time. This has given the world of science more insight into human in utero development. The scientists believe that this recent development in gastrulation may help in understanding birth defects and diseases in humans.
In the past, scientists have only been able to form masses of stem cells that make certain types of cells. For example, red blood cells, which lacks structure or organization. Only recently have they managed to create formation and organization of the axis with gastrulation movements. At first, the aggregates forms a single axis that represents a mouse embryo, which imitates the normal sequence of events. Researchers were able to control the type of cell produced by the stem cells through changing the signals they received. Through one experiment Professor Martinez-Arias was able to recreate mesoderm, endoderm, and ectoderm, which are the basis of all tissues. Through experimenting, these scientists were able to create a spinal cord through gastrulation.
From all of this research done at the University of Cambridge scientists have learned more about embryonic development and stem cells. Professor Martinez-Arias said that even though their research is in the early stages, they are still making progress in learning more about the human body. Most of all, this has created many new ways of experimenting on how cells group together and organize themselves; also allows learning opportunities for the human body’s development.