Endometrium is the mucosal lining inside the uterus which over the course of the menstrual cycle changes composition, becoming thicker with many blood vessels for implantation and nutritional support for the conceptus but in case of conception failure this tissue is sheded causing the woman's period.

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Despite the importance of the endometrium, there are no long-term culture systems to mimic endometrial function in a woman, so until now we had to rely on animal studies. Scientists from the centre for throphoblast Research at the University of Cambridge successfully managed to grow miniature functional models of the lining of the womb (uterus) using cells derived from human endometrial tissue. These organoids were maintained in culture for several months, reproduced the pattern of gene activity in the lining of the uterus and demonstrated a response to female sex hormones and secretion of the uterine milk proteins which nourish the embryo during the first months of pregnancy.

Professor Burton and his team strongly believe that these organoid cultures will help the investigations concerning the communication between the embryo and the endometrial glands since research in animal species has shown that the endometrial glands secret some factors which are critical for a fertilized egg (conceptus) to implant into the wall of the uterus. There is also strong evidence that the conceptus also sends signals to the endometrial glands which then stimulate the placental development.

Apparently, a kind of circuity is established between the embryo and the mother and if this circuity fails then women experience difficulty in conceiving or the fetus faces severe growth restrictions.

Therefore, events in early pregnancy which are fundamental for a successful birth can be investigated with this new technique as well as complications of pregnancy such as restricted growth of the fetus, sillbirth and pre-eclempsia which although appear later in pregnancy, however, their origin is around the time of implantation when the placenta is developed.

Finally, the organoid technique will also enable the researchers to grow organoids from endometrial cancer cells allowing the modelling and understanding diseases such as cancer of the uterus and endometriosis.

 

Source: Nature Cell biology (2017), published online 10 April 2017.

www. news-medical.net/news/20170410

 

By Sisi Paraskevi, PhD

Senior Clinical Embryologist at Embryogenesis