Researchers re-engineered embryos to function retroactively in its early, ultimate stem cell stage when it was considered to have functioned to its full developmental potential.
The UC Berkeley researchers developed new stem cell lines that would develop into different cell types from which an embryo would grow to facilitate nutrient exchange between mother and the embryo itself.
Originally, embryonic stem cells have restricted developmental potential. The re-engineered feature is similar to what is natural to the early-stage zygote or fertilized egg. Embryonic stem cells, by contast to a zygote, can not develop extra embryonic tissues.
Lin He, team leader of the study and a UC Berkeley associate professor of molecular and cell biology explained, “Studies on embryonic development greatly benefit from the culture system of embryonic stem cells and, more recently, induced pluripotent
stem cells. These experimental systems allow scientists to dissect key molecular pathways that specify cell fate decisions in embryonic development."
“But the unique developmental potential of a zygote, formed right after the sperm and egg meet, is very, very difficult to study, due to limited materials and the lack of a cell-culture experimental system.”
Labs have monitored switches in pluripotent cells to specialized tissues of different organs. Understanding more of this powerful cell-culture system can also help study the early stage of genetic diseases.
Scientists discovered that removing microRNAs, the non-encoding RNAs that do not translate to proteins, allow cells to expand their developmental decisions of generating embryo cell types and extra tissues.
Researchers published their report to Science.
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