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Without Egg, Sperm or Womb: Synthetic Mouse Embryo Models Created Solely from Stem Cells

The method opens new vistas for studying how stem cells self-organize into organs and may in the future help produce transplantable tissues

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An egg meets a sperm – that’s a necessary first step in life’s beginnings, and it’s also a common first step in embryonic development research. But in a Weizmann Institute of Science study published today in Cell, researchers have grown synthetic embryo models of mice outside the womb by starting solely with stem cells cultured in a petri dish – that is, without the use of fertilized eggs. The method opens new horizons for studying how stem cells form various organs in the developing embryo and may one day make it possible to grow tissues and organs for transplantation using synthetic embryo models.

“The embryo is the best organ-making machine and the best 3D bioprinter – we tried to emulate what it does,” says Prof. Jacob Hanna of Weizmann’s Molecular Genetics Department, who headed the research team. He explains that scientists already know how to restore mature cells to “stemness” – pioneers of this cellular reprogramming had won a Nobel Prize in 2012. But going in the opposite direction, that is, causing stem cells to differentiate into specialized body cells, not to mention form entire organs, has proved much more problematic. “Until now, in most studies, the specialized cells were often either hard to produce or aberrant, and they tended to form a mishmash instead of well-structured tissue suitable for transplantation. We managed to overcome these hurdles by unleashing the self-organization potential encoded in the stem cells.”

Hanna’s team built on two previous advances in his lab. One was an efficient method for reprogramming stem cells back to a naïve state – that is, to their earliest stage – when they have the greatest potential to specialize into different cell types. The other, described in a scientific paper in Nature in March 2021, was the electronically controlled device the team had developed over seven years of trial and error for growing natural mouse embryos outside the womb. The device keeps the embryos bathed in a nutrient solution inside of beakers that move continuously, simulating the way nutrients are supplied by material blood flow to the placenta, and closely controls oxygen exchange and atmospheric pressure. In the earlier research, the team had successfully used this device to grow natural mouse embryos from day 5 to day 11.

In the new study, the team set out to grow a synthetic embryo model solely from naïve mouse stem cells that had been cultured for years in a petri dish, dispensing with the need for starting with a fertilized egg. This approach is extremely valuable because it could, to a large extent, bypass the technical and ethical issues involved in the use of natural embryos in research and biotechnology. Even in the case of mice, certain experiments are currently unfeasible because they would require thousands of embryos, whereas access to models derived from mouse embryonic cells, which grow in lab incubators by the millions, is virtually unlimited.

Before placing the stem cells into the device, the researchers separated them into three groups. In one, which contained cells intended to develop into embryonic organs themselves, the cells were left as they were. Cells in the other two groups were pretreated for only 48 hours to overexpress one of two types of genes: master regulators of either the placenta or the yolk sac. “We gave these two groups of cells a transient push to give rise to extraembryonic tissues that sustain the developing embryo,” Hanna says.

Soon after being mixed together inside the device, the three groups of cells convened into aggregates, the vast majority of which failed to develop properly. But about 0.5 percent – 50 of around 10,000 – went on to form spheres, each of which later became an elongated, embryo-like structure. Since the researchers had labeled each group of cells with a different color, they were able to observe the placenta and yolk sacs forming outside the embryos and the model’s development proceeding as in a natural embryo. These synthetic models developed normally until day 8.5 – nearly half of the mouse 20-day gestation – at which stage all the early organ progenitors had formed, including a beating heart, blood stem cell circulation, a brain with well-shaped folds, a neural tube and an intestinal tract. When compared to natural mouse embryos, the synthetic models displayed a 95 percent similarity in both the shape of internal structures and the gene expression patterns of different cell types. The organs seen in the models gave every indication of being functional.

For Hanna and other stem cell and embryonic development researchers, the study presents a new arena: “Our next challenge is to understand how stem cells know what to do – how they self-assemble into organs and find their way to their assigned spots inside an embryo. And because our system, unlike a womb, is transparent, it may prove useful for modeling birth and implantation defects of human embryos.”

In addition to helping reduce the use of animals in research, synthetic embryo models might in the future become a reliable source of cells, tissues and organs for transplantation. “Instead of developing a different protocol for growing each cell type – for example, those of the kidney or liver – we may one day be able to create a synthetic embryo-like model and then isolate the cells we need. We won’t need to dictate to the emerging organs how they must develop. The embryo itself does this best.”

This research was co-led by Shadi Tarazi, Alejandro Aguilera-Castrejon and Carine Joubran of Weizmann’s Molecular Genetics Department. Study participants also included Shahd Ashouokhi, Dr. Francesco Roncato, Emilie Wildschutz, Dr. Bernardo Oldak, Elidet Gomez-Cesar, Nir Livnat, Sergey Viukov, Dmitry Lokshtanov, Segev Naveh-Tassa, Max Rose and Dr. Noa Novershtern of Weizmann’s Molecular Genetics Department; Montaser Haddad and Prof. Tsvee Lapidot of Weizmann’s Immunology and Regenerative Biology Department; Dr. Merav Kedmi of Weizmann’s Life Sciences Core Facilities Department; Dr. Hadas Keren-Shaul of the Nancy and Stephen Grand Israel National Center for Personalized Medicine; and Dr. Nadir Ghanem, Dr. Suhair Hanna and Dr. Itay Maza of the Rambam Health Care Campus.

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Business & Economy

Campus 365 provides cloud-based seamless solutions to educational institutions 

With its ERP software and pioneering technological innovation, Campus 365 is disrupting the education sector and making education more effective and accessible

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Just as technology, and particularly the digital era, has disrupted and improved most major segments of India’s economy, education and training is also undergoing a tech revolution. Education Technology, more commonly known as EdTech, possesses the power to bridge the learning gap thanks to technology’s ability to eliminate geographical barriers. As much as digital adoption is the need of the hour, it is critical to retain a few unparalleled benefits of a traditional classroom setup such as group discussion, personalised support from educators and creating opportunities to work on peer collaborative assignments.

Armed with a mission to empower schools with tools that serve people in the most human, helpful way, Campus 365- an ed-tech start-up incubated by NASSCOM 10000 startup based out of Gurgaon, is providing cloud-based solutions to schools and colleges to manage and track their daily activities seamlessly. With user-friendly mobile apps to help students, parents, and teachers maintain the academic cycle, Campus 365 provides a 360-degree outlook to stakeholders assisting them in making productive decisions to escalate their progress.

“We all know that the introduction of EdTech is transforming the learning process in schools. Initially, technological abilities were not needed for students but these skills are now of much importance. Today, students should have good knowledge of online communication to attend classes, check emails, and submit assignments online and our school ERP gives our students a dedicated platform for this to make them future-ready. We at Campus 365 believe that technology is a powerful instrument that can elevate education to an advanced level, allowing students to learn and collaborate in new ways and we are constantly working towards it” said  Mayank Singh Co- Founder and CEO of Campus 365.

Campus 365 is India’s largest all-in-one app for teachers, schools, and coaching institutes to manage their online and offline classrooms in one place. This online teaching and institute management app helps users create tests & quizzes, share study material & homework, chat with students, take live online classes, record live lectures, teach using digital whiteboard, automate attendance, and much more.

Empowering 1000+ institutes globally, Campus 365’s mission is to enhance student learning by bringing innovation to education. Campus 365 partners with schools and colleges across the country to provide students with a holistic learning experience that makes them future-ready. The company offers a high-quality, end-to-end solution for every stakeholder involved in a child’s learning journey. Campus 365 tackles some of the most critical aspects of School management and reduces school staff workload. By doing so, the company ensures that school teachers nurture the young minds of tomorrow and that the school support staff enjoys using the Campus 365 School ERP engine’s superior apps. Campus 365’s innovative school management software solutions are aimed at providing the best of School ERP features and safety measures to school-going children.

Campus 365’s team is founded with a deep-rooted passion toward delivering value to not just schools, but to parents and teachers as well, who ensure that children are always walking on the path of constant innovation. Today, Campus 365 is used by schools around the world – from kindergarten to higher studies schools and non-profit schools.

Campus 365 has simplified the managing of day-to-day activities such as attendance marking, alerts through mobile applications, fees payment reminders, parent-teacher notifications, and holiday schedules. Every team member in Team Campus 365 has some experience in School and College Management Process and it is also one of the reasons why the company puts concerted efforts into optimising the School and College Management Software. Breaking complex software and making them user-friendly is the top priority of Team Campus 365.

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Edu News

Study Australia successfully concludes the Study Australia Entrepreneurship Challenge

The winners of the SAEC 2022 are – Team Econominds of MITWPU University, Pune

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The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade- Australian Government agency) successfully concluded its Study Australia Entrepreneurship Challenge (SAEC-2022) in Delhi on September 23, 2022.

The winners of the SAEC 2022 are – Team Econominds of MITWPU University, Pune. The all-girls team has won a Student Tour to Australia, which will take place in March 2023.

Their theme was Circular Economy and Challenge question was – ‘How might we ensure that the clothing we wear is more sustainable’. The members of the team are Nishita Bhattad, Jasmine Mehta, Samiksha Joshi, Shweta Karthik and Muskan Kashyap.

The award is sponsored by Study Adelaide.

During this tour the winners will get a glimpse of the Australian lifestyle and will get the chance to visit and learn more about Australian education institutions and Australian entrepreneurship ecosystem and start-up culture.

The first runners-up of SAEC 2022 are Team Ekta from NMIMS, Mumbai. They have won a $2000 scholarship each, sponsored by Study New South Wales – which the students will be able to use towards the tuition fee for a full-time postgraduate degree program at any NSW education provider.

The second runners-up of SAEC 2022 are Team Glovis Rise from Lovely Professional University, Punjab who bagged a cash prize of $500 each, sponsored by Study Queensland.

Ms. Melissa Bank, Head of International Education Centre of Excellence, Austrade said, “Australia has always been a preferred destination for Indian students when it comes to higher education. We are seeing an increase in the number of Indian students applying to Australian universities every year. With the re-opening of borders after the pandemic, we are witnessing a constant surge in number of students arriving in Australia. The Australian government is committed to provide them the best-in-class education while also equipping them with necessary skills to facilitate their dream of becoming global citizens. Our goal behind setting up this competition was to help students learn about Australian entrepreneurship eco-system and its institutions. I am glad that all the participants were highly involved with this programme and we have been able to highlight the key differential factor that can make them an entrepreneur.”

The Study Australia Entrepreneurship Challenge was an initiative to engage highly-skilled students from the Indian higher education institutes who participated in a series of hybrid events, which were based on Ted X-meets-Hackathon. The participants formed multidisciplinary teams and participated in a two-week program showcasing the opportunities of Australia’s education sector and the Australian entrepreneurial and start-up ecosystems.

As part of the challenge, the teams created a 3-minute pitch video idea on the following challenge themes – Cybersecurity, Circular Economy, Digital Health, and Creative Industries. The participating teams also had access to mentors from Australian academia and industry who guided them in the development of their video pitches. They got in-depth understanding of their chosen topic during academic spotlights that were delivered by Australian academic experts, as well. The jury panel for the contest included Ms. Melissa Bank, Head of International Education Centre of Excellence, Austrade and Mr Sukhmeet Singh, Co-founder, A2P Energy.

In recent years, Australia has been a leading destination for Indian students seeking to study abroad, and it has progressively emerged as a preferred choice for many. Since the border re-opening in mid-December 2021 until 22 July 2022, over 260,000 student visa holders reached Australia.

Furthermore, the Australian Trade and Investment Commission’s “The Study Australia Industry Experience Program (SAIEP)” was launched for current Indian and other international students at Australian universities to enhance their employability skills.

More information about Study Australia and the support for Indian students is available at https://www.studyaustralia.gov.au/india

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University of Essex Online invites applications for PG Cert Global Mental Health and Wellbeing

University of Essex Online courses are delivered by Kaplan Open Learning in partnership with the University of Essex

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The University of Essex Online is inviting applications for the October intake of the PG Cert Global Mental Health and Wellbeing. The course deals with a wide range of topics, including identifying and processing challenges which impact global mental health, as well as interpreting and understanding ethical policies for an international framework.

This course is designed with a specific focus on the critical perspectives of global mental health policy and practices.  Students will gain the skills and experience required to pursue a career as a mentor, coach, manager, mental health lead or wellbeing adviser. With further training, one could also become a specialist nurse, specialist mental health practitioner or health service manager.

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be awarded a certificate from the University of Essex – one of the UK’s top 40 universities (Complete University Guide 2023).

Course duration and delivery:  This is a 100% online part-time course with an indicative study duration of eight months.

Course content is delivered through a cutting-edge virtual learning environment (VLE), giving students 24/7 access to study materials, such as lecturecasts. This offers a contemporary and accessible way to interact with multimedia content and check understanding via engaging and interactive activities.

Application deadline: 20 October 2022 

Entry requirements: 

·       For the academic entry route, students must have an undergraduate degree from an approved institution, equivalent to a UK Honours degree, or a relevant professional qualification.

·       For the work experience entry route, students must have at least three years of work experience (voluntary or paid) within a relevant field, supported by two appropriate references.

·       As part of the application process, applicants will be asked to take a short aptitude test which is designed to evaluate their ability to handle the intellectual and practical demands of the course. 

·       If English isn’t your first language, your ability should be equivalent to an IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5. If you don’t hold an IELTS or equivalent qualification, the University offers a free online English test.

How to apply:  

Please visit: https://online.essex.ac.uk/apply/

Tuition fee: £3,945

Scholarship:  Merit-based scholarships are available based on prior academic achievements and work experience.

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