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J Reprod Fertil. 2000 Sep;120(1):99-108.

A staging scheme for assessing development in vitro of organogenesis stage embryos of the stripe-faced dunnart, Sminthopsis macroura (Marsupialia: dasyuridae).

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Department of Biology, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH 44074-1082, USA.


The inaccessibility of mammalian organogenesis stage embryos has precluded their widespread use in embryological and teratological studies. As organogenesis occurs during the last 1.5 days of the 10. 7 days of gestation in the stripe-faced dunnart (Sminthopsis macroura), the aim of the present study was to investigate whether day 9 and day 10 embryos and fetuses could be grown to term in vitro. High glucose Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium with 10% fetal calf serum (FCS) supported embryonic growth for various periods of time, some to within 5 h of the predicted time of parturition. A roller culture system maintained at 35 degrees C was used to incubate organogenesis stage embryos (n = 43). Nine unincubated (control) embryos were either fixed for microscopic analysis or frozen for microprotein determination. The results of the present study indicate that with some optimization of the culture conditions (increasing oxygen in the gas phase in the culture tubes, replacing FCS with rat serum), it might be possible for organogenesis stage S. macroura embryos to be grown to term. A scoring scheme for assessing morphological development was devised for use as a standard in staging organogenesis stage embryos. This scheme reflects the highly compressed schedule of developmental events that occurs mainly during day 9 of gestation in S. macroura embryos. In comparison, during embryogenesis in Didelphis virginiana these developmental events occur from day 8 to day 10.5 of gestation, and birth occurs on day 13.

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