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Volume 622 Issue 7983, 19 October 2023

Embryo models

A significant gap exists in the understanding of how humans develop in the very early stages when a newly formed embryo is implanted in the wall of the uterus, largely because of the physical and ethical challenges that are presented by studying early human embryos. A collection of articles in this week’s issue examines possible ways to help address this problem. Three papers — by Jacob Hanna and colleagues, Berna Sozen and co-workers, and Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz and colleagues — present structures that mimic the development of human embryos after implantation in the uterus. The resulting complete model from Hanna and co-workers is pictured on the cover. Although there are differences between the structural morphology and composition of supporting cells and in each of the three models, all of them were assembled using just human stem cells in a dish, thereby avoiding the use of either egg or sperm in the generation of the structures. The research possibilities, challenges and ethical considerations for the work are examined in accompanying News & Views and Comment articles.

Cover image: Jacob Hanna and Maayan Visuals

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  • Advances in paediatric care are leading to marked declines in child mortality worldwide, with clinician-led research revealing not only the mechanisms that drive disease but also the barriers that prevent children from reaching optimum health.

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