Using human stem cells, researchers at the University of Leuven (Belgium) have manufactured a new type of human cell that can be of great help for medical research since, thanks to this laboratory cell, it is possible to better study what happens just after an embryo is implanted in the uterus. The findings have been published in «Cell Stem Cell».
In normal situations, the human embryo implants in the uterus about seven days after fertilization. At that point, due to both technical and ethical limitations, the embryo becomes inaccessible for research.
That is why scientists have developed stem cell models for various types of embryonic and extra-embryonic cells to study human development in a dish.
Now the team of Vincent Pasque has developed the first model for a specific type of human embryonic cells, the cells of the extraembryonic mesoderm.
“These cells generate the first blood in an embryo, help attach the embryo to the future placenta, and play a role in the formation of the primitive umbilical cord. In humans, this cell type appears at an earlier stage of development than in mouse embryos, and there could be other important differences between species. That makes our model especially important: Research in mice may not give us answers that apply to humans as well.», emphasizes Pasque.
A new type of human cell is not made every day.
University of Leuven
The researchers designed their model cells from human stem cells that can still develop into all cell types of an embryo. The new cells closely resemble the natural ones in human embryos and are therefore a good model for that specific cell type.
“A new type of human cell is not made every day. We are very excited because we can now study processes that normally remain inaccessible during development. In fact, the model has already allowed us to discover where the cells of the extraembryonic mesoderm come from. In the long term, we hope that our model will also shed more light on medical challenges such as fertility problems, miscarriages and developmental disorders.”