Entries in embryo (5)


Video Captures Embryo's Face Being Formed in the Womb

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An animation based on scans of a developing embryo has captured the formation of the face in the womb.

The video, produced for the BBC series Inside the Human Body, reveals how sections of the face grow and fit together like a puzzle just three months after conception.

“The three main sections of the puzzle meet in the middle of your top lip, creating the groove that is your philtrum,” says BBC’s Michael Mosley, whose philtrum is “quite a prominent one.”

The 30-second clip strings together 3-D models of the developing face based on scans taken in the first trimester.

“It was a nightmare for structures like the nose and palate, which didn’t exist for most of the animation,” graphics researcher David Barker told New Scientist. ”Their formation is a complicated ballet of growth and fusion of moving plates of tissue.”

Plates of tissue that fuse at the philtrum, which can be long or short and deep or shallow, depending on a person’s genetic makeup.  The failure of those plates to fuse can cause a cleft lip or palate.  And a smooth philtrum can signal disorders like fetal alcohol syndrome.

“This whole amazing process -- the bits coming together to produce a recognizable human face -- happens in the womb between two and three months,” says Mosley.  “If it doesn’t happen then, it never will.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Geron Announcement Throws Stem Cell Research into Question

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MENLO PARK, Calif.) -- In the wake of a California-based research company's decision to drop the world's first clinical trial using human embryonic stem cells, many investigators who once held to the promise of stem cell research now wonder whether the field of embryonic stem cell research has been abandoned in the U.S. completely.

The company, Geron, which pioneered the field of embryonic stem cell research, announced its decision on Monday to drop its study on stem cells for spinal cord injury.

Geron cited costs as the primary reason, saying the payoff of stem cell research wouldn't come close to other more lucrative projects.  The company would be better off allocating financial resources to research for cancer therapies that are near completion in development, company representatives said.

While Geron says it hasn't given up on the promise of stem cell research, many experts say the announcement signals a symbolic end to the era of embryonic stem cell research that many researchers worked so hard to launch.

Many experts say they're not convinced that financial limits are only to blame.

"This company would not walk away from this trial in the absence of an unexpected complication or safety concern, if there was any evidence that it was working," said Dr. Daniel Salomon, associate professor in the department of molecular and experimental medicine at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. "The assumption has to be that they designed a study with a purposeful plan to complete it to a certain benchmark of efficacy and that they had the funds for that effort in hand."

In 2009, the Obama administration lifted former president George W. Bush's restrictions on funding for stem cell research, which expanded the financial limits of the field.

Geron's trial on therapies for spinal cord injury became the first embryonic stem cell-based research approved in the U.S.

"Without seeing the data, one cannot be certain that there was not a clinical reason for stopping the trial," said Dr. Robertson Parkman, professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Taller Women More Likely to Have Twins after In Vitro?

Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Thinkstock(AMSTERDAM) -- Multiple births after in vitro fertilization (IVF) are not uncommon, but a new study released on Monday suggests that if two embryos are implanted in a woman's uterus, taller recipients are more likely to have twins than their shorter counterparts.

Researchers at Vrije Universiteit Medical Centre in Amsterdam reviewed data from over 2,300 Dutch women who underwent a double embryo transfer during their first IVF treatment. They found that women measuring over five feet eight-and-a-half inches in height were almost three times more likely to give birth to twins than shorter women.

The authors of the study, however, could not offer any explanation to their findings.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Court Lifts Federal Stem Cell Ban

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In a victory for the Obama administration, a federal appeals court has set aside a lower-court ruling that would have blocked the use of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research.

A divided three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that the plaintiffs in the case, who argued that NIH's guidelines for human embryonic stem cell research violate federal law, were not likely to succeed in their lawsuit.

The court found that the law--the Dickey-Wicker Amendment enacted in 1996--is "ambiguous" and that the NIH has "reasonably concluded" that while the law bans federal funding for the destructive act of deriving cells from an embryo "it does not prohibit funding a research project in which an hESC will be used."

The Obama administration contends that no embryos are actually destroyed with federal funds and that the monies only pay for research conducted under strict ethical guidelines on derived stem cells.

"Today's ruling is a victory for our scientists and patients around the world who stand to benefit from the groundbreaking medical research they're pursuing," said Nick Papas, a spokesman for the White House.

The suit was brought by Drs. James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, scientists who use only adult stem cells in their research and who say that the funding for hESC would compete with funding necessary to complete their research. Last August, District Court Judge Royce Lamberth stunned the medical community when he issued a preliminary injunction against the funding, ruling it violated Dickey-Wicker.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Couple Who Gave Up Baby to Biological Parents After Medical Mistake Expecting Twins

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Sean and Carolyn Savage, the Ohio couple who gave their baby back to his biological parents after an accidental embryo switch, have announced Thursday they are expecting twins.

"We're excited and terrified and feel so very lucky," the couple said in a prepared statement.

The Savages have been working with a surrogate, Jennifer, to conceive since the birth of Logan in 2009. The little boy, now 19 months old, is the biological son of Shannon and Paul Morell.

Both couples have written books about their harrowing experience after an unnamed fertility clinic confused their records and implanted the Morells' embryo in Carolyn Savage's uterus. She carried the fetus for nine months, then handed the child over to his biological parents.

"When we brought Logan into this world, we came to understand his life was a gift," the Savages wrote. "We are humbled again as one very special woman is giving this same gift of family to us. Jennifer, our carrier -- our partner and guardian angel -- has become part of our family. We are in awe of her generosity and our gratitude is beyond measure."

The Savages had tried for another child through surrogacy last year, but Jennifer miscarried. She is now 19 weeks pregnant with twins. The Savages said they did not know the sex of the babies.

"We've been so humbled by every good wish and blessings we've received from real friends like you," they wrote. "When shock and heartbreak came, you comforted. When we started to lose hope about expanding our family, you squeezed our hands in support and told us to not lose faith." The couple tells their heartbreaking story in their 2011 book, "Inconceivable."

Just four days after finding out she was pregnant, Carolyn Savage went from the high of expecting the child she had tried so hard to conceive, to the unfathomable low of knowing the baby was not hers to keep.

Carolyn Savage had had a history of miscarriages, and she and Sean turned to in vitro fertilization. They already had three other children and hoped for a fourth.

But On Feb. 16, 2009, the Sylvania, Ohio, couple learned that the frozen embryo of another couple had been mistakenly transferred into Carolyn's womb.

The Savages could have fought for custody, or Carolyn could have had an abortion. Tethered to a strong Catholic faith, Carolyn chose to carry the baby she and Sean called "Little Man" to term.

On Sept. 24, 2009, the Savages returned their newborn son, whom they'd held for 30 minutes, to his biological parents -- Shannon and Paul Morell of Sterling Heights, Mich., who named him Logan.

In the months since Logan's birth, the Savages have had a long, painful, somewhat "ambiguous" journey.

"We have three children. Or do we have four? A strange question, but the kind that parents who have lost a child ask themselves from time to time. That absent child is always with you, a loss you feel some days as yearning and other days in a gasp of pain.

"This was a child whom I nurtured and we both protected from the forces conspiring against his survival," writes Carolyn, now 41, in the book's prologue. "Yet I understand that I may never hold him in my arms again and that the next time I see him, he will think of me as a stranger."

Throughout the 36 weeks that Carolyn carried "Little Man," the two couples maintained a respectful relationship. The Morells described in their 2010 book, "Misconception," their own harrowing wait, knowing that with Carolyn's past history of miscarriages, their child might never be born.

In an interview with, the Savages said that even though they considered it a "gift" to return Logan to his biological parents, the medical mistake tore their lives apart.

Their marriage was under tremendous strain, and after the delivery, Carolyn was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Both have sought counseling.

They were in an unusual position: Their son had not died, but he was gone.

"It's a loss that has no closure," said Pauline Boss, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, who described the ambiguity in her book, "Ambiguous Loss."

"People have a difficult time resolving this," she told "There are no rituals or sympathy cards for them."

"He'll always be my baby, even though he's their son," said Carolyn. "There was no way of entering into a pregnancy and taking a 12-cell embryo and turning it into a human being and not feel a maternal connection to him."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio