Watching an Embryo’s Neural Tube Close

In those precious weeks before a woman even realizes she’s pregnant, an embryo will have already developed a neural tube, a hollow structure made of cells which will eventually become the brain and spinal cord. Now, with $3.2 million from the National Institutes of Health, UH professor of biomedical engineering Kirill Larin will tackle the evolutionary anomaly of why the neural tube closes in most embryos but remains open in others, leading to birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

Neural Tube Defects (NTD) are the second most common structural birth defect in humans, affecting upwards of 500,000 pregnancies worldwide and approximately 2,400 pregnancies each year in the United States.

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