Study examines how early embryonic development can go awry

phys.org | 4/26/2018 | Staff
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A new study in the journal Nature Cell Biology has uncovered information about a key stage that human embryonic cells must pass through just before an embryo implants. The research, led by UCLA biologist Amander Clark, could help explain certain causes of infertility and spontaneous miscarriage.

Infertility affects around 10 percent of the U.S. population, and roughly 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. end in miscarriage. In many cases, the causes of infertility and miscarriage are unknown.

Team - Clark - UCLA - Professor - Cell

A team led by Clark, a UCLA professor of molecular cell and developmental biology and member of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA, set out to find how epigenomic changes—non-genetic influences on gene expression—in human embryonic stem cells could explain why some embryos are not viable.

They started by analyzing cells within the early embryo; these cells are pluripotent, meaning that they can turn into any cell within the human body.

Years - Researchers - Pluripotency - State - Clark

"For many years, researchers thought that human pluripotency was a single state," Clark said. "However, over the past three years, the field has discovered that human pluripotency involves at least two major states, and as embryos grow the stem cells pass through these two different states of pluripotency on the way to the embryo establishing a pregnancy."

After a human embryo is fertilized and before it implants in the uterine lining, cells in the embryo are in a very immature state of pluripotency called the "naive" state. Little is known about the naive state, but scientists believe that if embryonic cells cannot first enter this state, the embryo is not viable and a miscarriage would occur. Around the time an embryo implants, its cells enter the "primed" state. Primed cells are ready to differentiate into all of the various cell types in the body.

"Although...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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