Unlike human women, female mice and some other mammals can delay the onset of their pregnancies, and researchers have now identified the molecular mechanism behind this remarkable ability.
The phenomenon, known as embryonic diapause, is a temporary state of suspended animation that occurs when environmental conditions are not favorable to the survival of the mother and the newborn. A new study, published online today (April 23) in the journal Open Biology, reveals the genes that are responsible for pausing and resuming a pregnancy.
After an egg is fertilized, it forms a cluster of cells known as a blastocyst, which implants in the wall of the mother’s uterus. But during diapause, the blastocyst is prevented from implanting and preserved in an inactive state until pregnancy resumes. Yet exactly how this process occurred was a mystery.