Stem cell models unlock secrets of early human embryo development

A new study using stem cell-based models has shed new light on how the human embryo begins to develop, which could one day benefit the development of fertility treatment.

The study led by at the University of Exeter Living Systems Institute has revealed how early embryo cells decide between contributing to the fetus or to the supporting yolk sac.

Understanding this decision is important because the yolk sac is essential for later development in the womb. Producing the right number of yolk sac forming cells may be critical for infertility treatment using in vitro fertilized (IVF) embryos.

Only limited research can be performed directly on human embryos. The research team which included the University of Edinburgh, therefore used naïve stem cells that are able to make all the cell types and structures of the early embryo. They designed stem cell models to study formation of yolk sac founders, called hypoblast.

The key discovery, published in Cell Stem Cell, is pinpointing a critical signal that acts during a short window of time, less than one day, to trigger cells to become hypoblast. The signal is a protein called fibroblast growth factor that is made within the embryo. Previous studies had missed the importance of this signal in human embryos. The new findings show that the initial processes that form an embryo and its supporting tissues are similar for humans and other mammals.

Our findings provide insights into how the correct proportions of different cell types form in the early human embryo. We hope our research will benefit infertility treatment in future."

Dr. Ge Guo, Lead Author of the University of Exeter's Living System Institute

Professor Austin Smith, the Director of the University of Exeter's Living Systems Institute, said: "This study shows the power of stem cell-based models for revealing how the human embryo begins to develop. This marks a significant milestone in stem cell research and embryo models, providing a framework for future research into the early development of the human embryo.

The paper is entitled 'Naive pluripotent stem cell-based models capture FGF-dependent human hypoblast lineage specification' and is published in Cell Stem Cell. The work is a collaboration with Professor Jennifer Nichols at the University of Edinburgh.

Journal reference:

Dattani, A., et al. (2024). Naive pluripotent stem cell-based models capture FGF-dependent human hypoblast lineage specification. Cell Stem Cell.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
Researchers discover a 'training program' driving parietal cell development