An embryo is an early stage of Embryogenesis of a multicellular organism. In general, in Organism that reproduce sexually, embryonic development refers to the portion of the life cycle that begins just after Fertilisation and continues through the formation of body structures, such as tissues and organs. Each embryo starts development as a zygote, a single cell resulting from the fusion of Gamete (i.e. fertilization of a female egg cell by a male sperm cell). In the first stages of embryonic development, a single-celled zygote undergoes many rapid cell divisions, called cleavage, to form a blastula, which looks similar to a ball of cells. Next, the cells in a blastula-stage embryo start rearranging themselves into layers in a process called gastrulation. These layers will each give rise to different parts of the developing multicellular organism, such as the nervous system, connective tissue, and Organogenesis.
A newly developing human is typically referred to as an embryo until the ninth week after conception (see human embryogenesis), when it is then referred to as a fetus. In other multicellular organisms, the word “embryo” can be used more broadly to any early developmental or life cycle stage prior to birth or Hatchling.
Cleavage is the period of rapid mitotic cell divisions that occur after fertilization. During cleavage, the overall size of the embryo does not change, but the size of individual cells decrease rapidly as they divide to increase the total number of cells. Cleavage results in a blastula.
Depending on the species, a blastula stage embryo can appear as a ball of cells on top of yolk, or as a hollow sphere of cells surrounding a middle cavity.
Gastrulation is the next phase of embryonic development, and involves the development of two or more layers of cells (germinal layers). Animals that form two layers (such as Cnidaria) are called diploblastic, and those that form three (most other animals, from Flatworm to humans) are called triploblastic. During gastrulation of triploblastic animals, the three germinal layers that form are called the ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. All tissues and organs of a mature animal can trace their origin back to one of these layers. For example, the ectoderm will give rise to the skin epidermis and the nervous system, the mesoderm will give rise to the vascular system, muscles, bone, and connective tissues, and the endoderm will give rise to organs of the digestive system and epithelium of the digestive system and respiratory system. Many visible changes in embryonic structure happen throughout gastrulation as the cells that make up the different germ layers migrate and cause the previously round embryo to fold or invaginate into a cup-like appearance.
Past gastrulation, an embryo continues to develop into a mature multicellular organism by forming structures necessary for life outside of the womb or egg. As the name suggests, organogenesis is the stage of embryonic development when organs form. During organogenesis, molecular and cellular interactions prompt certain populations of cells from the different germ layers to differentiate into organ-specific cell types. For example, in neurogenesis, a subpopulation of cells from the ectoderm segregate from other cells and further specialize to become the brain, spinal cord, or peripheral nerves.
The embryonic period varies from species to species. In human development, the term fetus is used instead of embryo after the ninth week after conception, whereas in zebrafish, embryonic development is considered finished when a bone called the cleithrum becomes visible. In animals that hatch from an egg, such as birds, a young animal is typically no longer referred to as an embryo once it has hatched. In Viviparity animals (animals whose offspring spend at least some time developing within a parent’s body), the offspring is typically referred to as an embryo while inside of the parent, and is no longer considered an embryo after birth or exit from the parent. However, the extent of development and growth accomplished while inside of an egg or parent varies significantly from species to species, so much so that the processes that take place after hatching or birth in one species may take place well before those events in another. Therefore, according to one textbook, it is common for scientists interpret the scope of embryology broadly as the study of the development of animals.
Plants that produce Spore instead of seeds, like Bryophyte and Fern, also produce embryos. In these plants, the embryo begins its existence attached to the inside of the archegonium on a parental gametophyte from which the egg cell was generated. The inner wall of the archegonium lies in close contact with the "foot" of the developing embryo; this "foot" consists of a bulbous mass of cells at the base of the embryo which may receive nutrition from its parent gametophyte. The structure and development of the rest of the embryo varies by group of plants.
Since all land plants create embryos, they are collectively referred to as Embryophyte (or by their scientific name, Embryophyta). This, along with other characteristics, distinguishes land plants from other types of plants, such as algae, which do not produce embryos.
Cryoconservation of animal genetic resources is a practice in which animal germplasms, such as embryos are collected and stored at low temperatures with the intent of conserving the genetic material.
In regards to research using human embryos, the ethics and legalities of this application continue to be debated.Freedman, Jeri. "America Debates Stem Cell Research." New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2008.Sandel, Michael J. "The Case Against Perfection." Michael J. Sandel, 2007.Zavos, Panayiotis. "Reproductive Cloning is Moral." Ed. James Woodward. The Ethics of Human Cloning: At Issue. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven, 2005. 14–24.
Researchers from MERLN Institute and the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands managed to grow samples of synthetic rodent embryoids, combining certain types of stem cells. This method may assist scientists to understand the very first moments of the process of the birth of a new life, which, in turn, can lead to the emergence of new effective methods to combat infertility and other Genetic disorder. "Scientists grow synthetic mouse embryos from stem cells" New Atlas, May 4, 2018
In species which produce multiple embryos at the same time, miscarriage or abortion of some embryos can provide the remaining embryos with a greater share of maternal resources. This can also disturb the pregnancy, causing harm to the second embryo. Genetic strains which miscarry their embryos are the source of commercial seedless fruits.
Abortion is the process of artificially (non-naturally) removing the embryo through deliberate pharmaceutical or surgical methods.