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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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Scheme to protect wildlife and reduce flooding

News Story 1
 Natural England has announced a new scheme to improve flood protection, boost wildlife and create 160 hectares of new saltmarsh. The £6 million scheme in Lancashire will effectively unite the RSPB’s Hesketh Out Marsh Reserve and Natural England’s Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve. The completed reserve will be the largest site of its kind in the north of England. 

News Shorts
Welfare event to discuss ethical dilemmas faced by vets

Students and ethics experts will host an event on the difficult moral challenges facing vets. Ethical issues, such as euthanasia and breeding animals for certain physical traits, will be discussed by prominent speakers including TV vet Emma Milne and RSPCA chief vet James Yeates. Other topics will include how to tackle suspected animal abuse and the extent of surgical intervention.

The conference will look at how these dilemmas affect the wellbeing of vets, and explore how to better prepare veterinary students for work. It will be held at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus from 30 September - 1 October 2017. Tickets can be purchased here.