Belgian biologists create a new type of human cell for research

A team of biologists at the KU Leuven has succeeded in creating a new type of human cell in the laboratory using stem cells. These cells are similar to their natural counterparts in early human embryos, allowing scientists to study more precisely what happens just after an embryo is implanted in the womb.

Vincent Pasque's team has developed the first model for extra-embryonic mesodermal cells, which generate the first blood cells of an embryo, attach the embryo to the future placenta and form the primitive umbilical cord.

"In humans, this cell type appears at an earlier stage of development than in mouse embryos, and there may be other important differences between species," explains Professor Pasque. "This makes our model particularly important, because research on mice, while important, is not sufficient to provide answers applicable to" humans.

The biologists said they were excited about the discovery, published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Cell Stem Cell, because they can now study processes that normally remain inaccessible during development, hidden in the womb.

"In fact, the model has already allowed us to discover where extra-embryonic mesodermal cells originate. In the longer term, our model will hopefully shed more light on medical challenges such as fertility problems, miscarriages, and developmental disorders," concludes Vincent Pasque.



© BELGA PHOTO JACOPIN- Human embryo drawing Two-cell embryo (30 hours after fertilization)

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