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Pig embryo study sheds light on human development
"...the pig can be an excellent model system for the study of early human development."
Interplay between genes is critical, scientists say

A novel pig embryo study has offered fresh insight into early human development, and could improve our understanding of genetic diseases.

How human germ cells, the precursors of sperm and eggs, form during early development has long puzzled scientists. Now, for the first time, research published in Nature shows the interplay between two genes is critical for the formation of these cells, which are key to the preservation of a species.

This ‘genetic cocktail’ changes in different species, with clear differences in the early development of humans and mice, but a much closer relationship between humans and pigs.

Dr Ramiro Alberio from the University of Nottingham said: “We’ve shown how precursors to egg and sperm germ cell arise in species with similar embryo development. This suggests that the pig can be an excellent model system for the study of early human development, as well as improving our understanding of the origins of genetic disease.”

Scientists say the knowledge gained from this approach can be applied to regenerative medicine, to derive human cell types that could help us understand how mutations that disrupt early human development lead to disease.

For Dr Alberio, this research is the culmination of a decade’s work on embryo development. He added: “We show how studying the pig embryo can help us design new methods for the differentiation of human sperm and eggs in a dish.

“The findings of our research will help scientists improve our understanding of the origins of genetic diseases such as germ cell tumours, foetal abnormalities and certain types of infertility.”

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Survey seeks to learn about racehorse aftercare

News Story 1
 The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is launching a survey to improve understanding of aftercare for thoroughbreds. The survey has been emailed to trainers, who are asked to share their own experiences, with a focus on life after horses finish their racing careers. It forms part of an equine health and welfare strategy being developed by the BHA. 

News Shorts
Charity welcomes new ambassadors

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has appointed the actor Anthony Head and renowned canine behaviourist, Sarah Fisher, as official ambassadors. They join existing ambassadors Paul O’Grady, Amanda Holden, David Gandy and Jacqueline Wilson.

Anthony is best known for his roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Iron Lady and Girlfriends. He has previously lent his voice to Battersea’s videos and appeals, as well as performing readings at the charity’s Christmas Carol Concert and Collars & Coats Gala Ball.

Meanwhile Sarah has worked across all three of the charity’s centres, offering advice in dealing with a variety of complex and challenging dogs. She has also fostered several Battersea animals and trained many members of staff in using the Tellington Touch method of training, to keep dogs calm and relaxed.