Kunming University of Science and Technology successfully constructed a synthetic human implantation embryo model

On July 17, 2023, a team led by Li Tianqing, Ai Zongyong and Ji Weizhi of Kunming University of Science and Technology published a paper online in the internationally renowned journal Cell Research. The study is the first to map the complete cell profile of human implanted embryos and define the different cell lineages and the interactions between these lineages.

During embryonic development, the peri-bed stage is a critical period that determines whether the embryo can develop normally. Implantation failure, pregnancy loss, and fetal birth defects are strongly associated with abnormal development of perinatal embryos, but the mechanism is unclear. An important reason is our lack of understanding of the mechanisms of embryonic development at the relevant stages.

Peribed-stage embryos are located in the mother’s uterus and are small in size (hundreds of microns), unable to obtain relevant materials for study, so they are in a “black box” state. Moreover, research involving human embryos is also subject to ethical, embryo number and technical restrictions, and related scientific research has been difficult to carry out.

To this end, the researchers developed a new synthetic embryo using human stem cells, which for the first time reproduced the developmental characteristics of human peribed-based embryos, three-dimensional structures (double placenta, amniotic cavity and yolk sac) and cell lineage (extraembryonic internal/mesoderm, primitive germ cells and protoplasm).

Brightfield, staining, and pattern diagrams of synthetic embryos

With this synthetic embryo, the study is the first systematic to reveal the developmental dynamics, lineage characteristics, genetic signals, and functions of key signaling pathways in different lineage fate determination processes of human implanted embryos. The study has greatly advanced the human understanding of embryonic development around the bed.

In addition, synthetic embryos also provide a new model for further exploring lineage specialization, signal interaction and tissue patterns after implantation of human embryos, and also provide a new platform for drug development and toxicological testing for abnormal embryonic development.

At the same time, four other international teams also published work on human embryo models. Among them, the embryonic models obtained by three works (from the Cambridge University team in the United Kingdom, the Yale University team in the United States and the team from the University of Pittsburgh in the United States) lacked typical double placenta, amniotic cavity and yolk sac structures; The embryonic model developed by the team from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel has typical double placenta, amniotic cavity and yolk sac structures, but the efficiency is only 2.9%. The embryo model development efficiency of this study exceeds 80%, which provides an important research and screening platform for early human embryo development, drug development and toxicological testing.

“This study lays an important foundation for a deeper understanding of infertility or fetal birth defects and the search for appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic strategies that will benefit human reproductive health.” Li Tianqing, co-corresponding author of the paper and a professor at Kunming University of Science and Technology, told China Science News. (Source: Li Chenyang, China Science News)

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