British scientists have developed an artificial womb in which they have grown mouse embryos. A Nottingham University team led by professor of tissue engineering, Kevin Shakesheff, has created a new device in the form of a soft polymer bowl which mimics the soft tissue of the mammalian uterus in which the embryo implants. Their research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.
This new method has allowed scientists to see critical aspects of embryonic development that have never been seen in this way before. For the first time it has been possible to grow embryos outside the body of the mother, using a mouse model, for just long enough to observe in real time processes of growth during a crucial stage between the fourth and eighth days of development.
The experiments have a clear relevance to artificial reproduction in humans. “We hope this work will unlock further secrets which could improve medical treatments that require tissues to regenerate and also open up more opportunities to improve IVF,” says Professor Shakesheff. “In the future we hope to develop more technologies which will allow developmental biologists to understand how our tissue forms."