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Centre for Trophoblast Research



Pluripotent stem cells have the unique capacity to generate all the cell types of the organism. They are found in the mammalian embryo at the time of implantation in the uterus. At this stage, they undergo changes in shape and identity to set the foundation of the body plan. The molecular determinants that control pluripotency in non-physiologic 2D cultures are becoming increasingly apparent. By contrast, very little is known about how pluripotent stem cell identity and fate are regulated by physical and molecular cues contributed by a tissue’s physiological 3D organisation. To address this question, my group employs novel methods to culture embryonic stem cells in 3D, and to grow mouse and human embryos in vitro beyond the implantation stage. These models allow us to dissect the molecular pathways that regulate cell fate specification, and gain an integrated mechanistic understanding of normal embryo development. This is a first fundamental step in identifying the causes of developmental failure, congenital abnormalities and infertility.


Key publications: 

1) Shahbazi MN., Wang T., Tao X., Weatherbee BAT., Sun L., Zhan Y., Pellicer., Scott Jr RT., Seli E., Zernicka-Goetz M. “Developmental potential of aneuploidy human embryos cultured beyond implantation”. Nature Commun. Aug 2020; 11 (1): 3987.

2) Shahbazi MN., Scialdone A., Skorupska N., Weberling A., Recher G., Zhu M., Jedrusik A., Devito LG., Noli L., Macaulay IC., Buecker C., Khalaf Y., Ilic D., Voet T., Maironi JC., Zernicka-Goetz M. “Pluripotent state transitions coordinate morphogenesis in mouse and human embryos”. Nature. Dec, 2017; 552 (7684): 239-243.

3) Shahbazi MN., Jedrusik A., Vuoristo S., Recher G., Hupalowska A., Bolton V., Fogarty NM., Campbell A., Devito LG., Ilic D., Khalaf Y., Niakan KK., Fishel S., Zernicka-Goetz M. “Self-organization of the human embryo in the absence of maternal tissues”. Nat Cell Biol. Jun, 2016; 18 (6): 700-8.

Takes PhD students