The First Month of Human Development

The First Month of Human Development Begins with Fertilization

When the sperm meets the egg, a human cell is produced. From this single cell, a human body is built, containing over 30 trillion cells. How does that happen? Science really has no answer to that question. Dr. Jacob Hanna at the Weizmann Institute of Science refers to this stage of human development as a “black box.” Most of the research on embryo development has been done on mice, rabbits, chickens, and frogs. What happens during the first month of human development remains largely unknown.

Understanding what goes on during the first month of human development would help in dealing with miscarriages, congenital birth defects, and the side effects of medications taken during pregnancy. Dr. Hanna and other researchers have built a group of cells that act like an embryo but can’t grow into a fetus. This group contains the cell types that are essential for an embryo’s development, including the placenta, yolk sac, and outer membrane. This is all before any organs are formed, and takes about eight days.

Dr. Hanna does his research without using fertilized eggs or anything derived from aborted babies. Scientists are already using these stem cell models taken from adult skin cells. This work could have addressed some problems of the past, such as the drug thalidomide, which was used as a treatment for morning sickness and was found to cause birth defects.

The complexity of the changes taking place during the first month of human development speaks of the wisdom and design that has produced all humans. We are very different from the animals that make up the world around us. The difference becomes evident as we study the development of a fetus from the single cell that started the process.

Many years ago, the writer of Psalms 139:13-14 reflected on this as he said, “For you created my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: CNN Wonder Theory Science Newsletter for October 26, 2023, by Katie Hunt.