In this video, we see a mouse embryo developing. Erica Watson tells us that studying this process helps us better understand human pregnancy.
We can get valuable information from a mouse model about how an embryo and its placenta develop over time."
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“The development of a fetus is elegant yet complex. Amazingly, most fetuses undergo a highly orchestrated sequence of events during development to produce a healthy baby. This suggests that a baby can adapt to changes in the womb, such as to the availability of nutrients from its mother. But how do these environmental changes affect the baby’s health in later life? And is it possible that these adverse changes will alter the development of generations to follow? In other words, does the environment that a baby develops in affect its grandchildren’s growth and development?
Our research aims to understand these questions using a mouse model with a genetic mutation that prevents the normal breakdown folic acid (a vitamin). This mutation alters the metabolism of a mouse and causes long-lasting effects on the generations to come. Our hope is to find out how environmental changes caused by a genetic mutation are perpetuated into subsequent generations, even when these generations do not carry the mutation.
Since humans and mice use similar genes during development, we can get valuable information from a mouse model about how an embryo and its placenta develop over time. Compared to a human pregnancy that lasts nine months, a mouse fetus develops quickly, taking only three weeks to get from a one-cell embryo to a fully-grown mouse pup.