Human Embryology

Takaki MIYATA Professor

Department: School of Medicine / Graduate School of Medicine

Class Time: 2014 Fall Wednesday Thursday Friday
Recommended for: School of Medicine (all 2nd-year students and some 3rd-year students)

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Course Aims

“Human Embryology” belongs to the “Structure of Human Organs,” a unified course consisting of four subcourses. After learning about Gross Anatomy (April-July), Histology (October -November), and Neuroanatomy (December), medical students take this embryology course (January) to study how the structures of human organs including the brain are formed. This course helps students understand (1) how the gross and tissue-level morphologies that they have studied earlier are established during the embryonic/fetal period, (2) what cellular behaviors normally contribute to such morphogenetic events, (3) what molecular pathways work in the tissue-forming embryonic cells and how these pathways can participate in normal and pathological cellular behaviors of the adult cells (e.g. tissue-maintaining skin cells and cancer cells), (4) how developmental biological knowledge has been accumulated through utilizing a variety of non-human animal models, (5) how the understanding of embryological/developmental biological studies can contribute to regenerative medicine including clinical applications using embryonic stem (ES) cells and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, and (6) how pregnancy is diagnosed and monitored and what ethical issues we should bear in mind.

Key Features

In order to facilitate the understanding/realization of three-dimensional growth of organs and animal bodies, embryos of several different species (mouse, chick, zebrafish, and frog; some of which are live) are presented via microscope. Students can watch them on a large (2 m x 3 m) screen (to which images captured by the microscopes and cameras are projected) and also directly observe them during break time. ES cells and iPS cells (fixed) are also provided for microscopic observation. Textbooks and a variety of reference books are displayed on the desks. In this way the classroom, enriched with a variety of scientific materials, acts like a lab or museum.

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  1. T. W. Sadler: Langman's Medical Embryology Ninth Edition (Japanese, M. Yasuda Ed.), Medical Science International.
  2. W. J. Larsen: Human Embryology 3rd Edition, Churchill Livingstone.
  3. K. L. Moore and T. V. N. Persaud: The Developing Human 6th Edition (Japanese, H. Seguchi Ed.), W. B. Saunders.
  4. L. Nilsson: A Child Is Born, DTP/Seymour Lawrence.
  5. L. Wolpert: Principles of Development 2nd Edition, Oxford.
  6. S. F. Gilbert: Developmental Biology 8th Edition, Sinauer Associates, Inc.


(1) Outline of human embryology, Early embryonic days
Keywords: regenerative medicine, cancer cell biology, oocyte, sperm, fertilization, morula, blastocyst, hatching, ES cells, iPS cells
(2) Induction of the mesoderm and formation of the body axis
Keywords: ectoderm, endoderm, mesoderm, induction, organizer, activin, TGFβ superfamily, Nodal, notochord, gastrulation, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, convergent extension, BMP, primitive streak, amniocentesis, chorionic villi sampling
(3) Implantation, Placenta, Formation of the body cavities
Keywords: trophoblast, chorion, hCG, decidua, placenta, amniotic cavity, yolk sac
(4) Establishment of right-left asymmetry
Keywords: node, primary cilia, nodal, lefty, situs inversus, Kartagener syndrom
(5) Development of the nervous system 1 (regionalization)
Keywords: patterning, transcription factors, diffusible factors, Hox, Shh, FGF, Wnt, ES (iPS) cell-derived neurons, neurulation
(6) Development of the digestive system
Keywords: gut, stomach, liver, pancreas, epithelial-mesenchymal interaction, chick-quail chimera experiments, Sonic hedgehog (Shh), Patched
(7) Asymmetric cell division and Notch signaling
Keywords: asymmetric cell division, self-renewal, Notch, Delta, lateral inhibition
(8) Development of the nervous system 2 (histogenesis and circuit formation)
Keywords: neuroepithelium, neuronal migration, layer formation, Reelin, axon guidance, semaphorin, slit, netrin, refinement, adult neurogenesis
(9) Development of the heart and circulatory system
Keywords: lateral mesoderm, heart tube, looping, fetal circulation
(10) Development of the limbs
Keywords: apical ectodermal ridge, Hox, Shh, FGF, retinoic acid, ephrin, Eph, chondrogenesis, syndactyly, polydactyly, adactyly, ectodactyly
(11) Development of the urogenital system
Keywords: intermediate mesoderm, mesonephros, metanephric blastema, mesenchymal-epithelial transition, GDNF, Ret, polycyctic kidney, primordial germ cell, chemokine
(12) Sex differentiation and development of the reproductive organs
Keywords: sex-determining region of the Y chromosome (SRY), mesonephric duct (Wolfian duct), paramesonephric duct (Mullerian duct), gonad, genital ridge, Sertori cells, Leydig cells, testosteron, spermatogenesis, descent of the testes
(13) Development of the head and neck, the eyes and ears
Keywords: pharyngeal arch, pharyngeal pouch, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, thymus, tonsil, placode, rhombomere, cranial nerves, otic vesibcle, optic vesicle
(14) Formation of the somites, Development of the neural crest
Keywords: paraxial mesoderm, Notch, Hes, segmentation, neural crest, delamination, migration, ephrin, Eph, chmokine

Course Schedule

Session Lecture contents
1 Outline of human embryology, Early embryonic days
2 Induction of the mesoderm and formation of the body axis
3 Implantation, Placenta, Formation of the body cavities
4 Establishment of right-left asymmetry
5 Development of the nervous system 1 (regionalization)
6 Development of the digestive system
7 Asymmetric cell division and Notch signaling
8 Development of the nervous system 2 (histogenesis and circuit formation)
9 Development of the heart and circulatory system
10 Development of the limbs
11 Development of the urogenital system
12 Sex differentiation and development of the reproductive organs
13 Development of the head and neck, the eyes and ears
14 Formation of the somites, neural crest, and tail region


Session Instructor
1 Takaki MIYATA, Professor
2 Atsushi SUZUKI, Associate Professor (part-time lecturer, Hiroshima Univ.)
3 Ayano KAWAGUCHI, Associate Professor
4 Shigenori NONAKA, Associate Professor (part-time lecturer, National Institute for Basic Biology)
5 Takaki MIYATA, Professor
6 Kimiko FUKUDA, Associate Professor (part-time lecturer, Tokyo Metropolitan University)
7 Ayano KAWAGUCHI, Associate Professor
8 Takaki MIYATA, Professor
9 Takaki MIYATA, Professor
10 Atsushi KUROIWA, Professor (Nagoya University, Graduate School of Science)
11 Takaki MIYATA, Professor
12 Kenichiro MOROHASHI, Professor (part-time lecturer, Kyushu University)
13 Takaki MIYATA, Professor
14 Yoshiko TAKAHASHI, Professor (part-time lecturer, Nara Institute of Science and Technology)

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Page last updated April 21, 2011

The class contents were most recently updated on the date indicated. Please be aware that there may be some changes between the most recent year and the current page.

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