Researchers at the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) have found that developing embryos show signs of an innate immune response, which demonstrates the earliest signs of immune activity discovered to date. The paper, published in the journal Nature, discusses how a developing fetus clears common cellular errors and dying cells, even in the womb. Dr. Esteban Hoijman et. al. used high-resolution time-lapse imaging technology to study vertebrate development in zebrafish and mouse models. Dr. Hoijman explains, "Long before the formation of the organs, one of the first tasks performed by a developing embryo is to create a protective tissue." Epithelial tissue protects the internal structures from damage and works cooperatively to aid the removal of dysfunctional tissue. This groundbreaking research study has found that embryos exhibit an immune response earlier than previously thought. The mechanical cooperation of cells and microbes is currently poorly understood, warranting further research into this area of biology.
Lead researcher Dr. Verena Ruprecht hopes that this research will pave the way for further inquiry into how these findings could help offer support for early miscarriage and infertility issues. "Here we propose a new evolutionarily conserved function for epithelia as efficient scavengers of dying cells in the earliest stages of vertebrate embryogenesis," Dr. Verena Ruprecht states. He concludes, "Our work may have important clinical applications by one day leading to improved screening methods and embryo quality assessment standards used in fertility clinics."