Most people remember their first kiss but Victorian scientists have discovered that your first hug is much further back than you think.
Nicolas Plachta and his team at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute have discovered that embryos, when only eight cells in size, develop arm-like structures that ‘hug’ the cells into shape, helping to determine an embryo’s ultimate success.
The study, which was published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, used live imaging and fluorescent markers to capture the action in mouse embryos.
The pictures and video show the arm-like structures, or filopodia, appearing on the outer membrane of some cells before reaching out and pulling the cells closer together. Only after the filopodia release their grip do the cells continue to divide.
“In a sense, these filopodia are hugging the cells, squeezing them into shape,” says Nicolas.
The Plachta group is now hoping to improve the success rates of IVF implantation with this discovery. They are designing non-invasive imaging approaches to see whether IVF human embryos form normal filopodia and undergo normal compaction.
“This could help us choose which embryos should be implanted back in the uterus,” says Nicolas.
Nicolas is an EMBL Australia research leader, recruited by global search and appointed for up to nine years in accordance with the successful model developed by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL).
Australia has four EMBL Australia research groups. The first two, including the Plachta group, are located at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University. The next two groups have recently been established at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.