New understanding of embryos may help IVF


Up til now, a key stage of embryo development has been a mystery: implantation. Scientists have now found a way to study this key stage in development and the information they have gathered is important enough to change the way text books are written.

Two phases to development

The first stage of embryo development occurs right after fertilization as the floating ball of cells, or blastocyst, moves down the fallopian tube into the uterus. This is pre-implantation. The second phase, post-implantation, occurs after the blastocyst embeds itself in the mother’s uterus. And at this point, information stops. Blastocysts can be grown and studied in every way outside the body, but not at all after it implants. Embryos are so closely connected to their mothers, it’s impossible to study in the womb. “We know a lot about pre-implantation, but what happens after implantation – and particularly the moment of implantation – is an enigma,” explained Prof. Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz of the University of Cambridge.

Huge changes during this mysterious time

“During these two days, it goes form a relatively simple ball to a much larger, more complex cup-like structure, but exactly how that happens was a mystery – a black box of development. That is why we needed to develop a method that would allow us to culture and study embryos during implantation,” she said. Working with mice cells, the scientists have found a way to artificially implant blastocysts outside the body and watch them develop.

A synthetic womb-like substance

Scientists created a system comprising a gel and medium that has the right chemical and biological properties as well as similar elasticity to uterine tissue. More importantly, the substance is transparent allowing them to film the implantation and watch the changes occur. The new method will allow new study to take place as well as improving the process of IVF, and knowledge base for stem cells.

“The text books make an educated guess of what happened during this part of development, but we now know that what I learned and what I teach my students was totally wrong,” the professor explained.

Source: Cell, MedicalNewsToday


The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. See our Legal Statement for more details.

Fertility Clinics Directory

Find a Fertility Clinic

If you or a loved one is suffering from infertility and needs help conceiving then we are here to offer help in any way we can. We have over 450 Fertility Clinics listed on our Directory. Click here to search for a Fertility Clinic that is right for you.