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Monday, December 8, 2008

Morulas and Blastocysts Leftover From In Vitro Processes May Be Used As Material for Stem Cell Research

A morula is created when a sperm and egg unite. This early stage of embryonic development consists of approximately 12-32 cells in a solid ball. They are microscopic in size.

The morula is produced by cleavage, or the rapid cell division of the zygote. After reaching the 16-cell stage, the cells of the morula differentiate. The inner cells will form an inner cell mass and the cells on the outer surface will form the trophectoderm, which will later become the placenta. As this process begins, the blastomeres change their shape and tightly align themselves against each other to form a compact ball of cells.

Inside a female body, the morula travels from the fallopian tubes to the uterus around 3-4 days after fertilization, and once a fluid-filled space called the blastocoel cavity appears, the morula becomes a blastocyst. Once the blastocyst implants in the uterine lining, it can proceed to the next stage of gestation and become an embryo and then a fetus. Many blastocysts do not implant and are simply discarded with a woman’s menstrual flow.

Outside the uterus, a morula can be created by uniting a sperm and egg utilizing in vitro technology. The cells begin to divide and the morula becomes a blastocyst while in the lab. However, further development cannot occur unless the entire blastocyst is introduced into a uterus at the correct time of the menstrual cycle.

Morulas and blastocysts leftover from in vitro processes may be used as material for stem cell research.

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