Great ape organoids to reconstruct uniquely human development

Title Great ape organoids to reconstruct uniquely human development
Start date 2019-01-01
End date 2024-01-01
Sponsor Gustave Roussy
Institution University of Basel

Associated cell lines

Project Description

Humans diverged from our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and other great apes, 6-10 million years ago. Since this divergence, our ancestors acquired genetic changes that enhanced cognition, altered metabolism, and endowed our species with an adaptive capacity to colonize the entire planet and reshape the biosphere. Through genome comparisons between modern humans, Neandertals, chimpanzees and other apes we have identified genetic changes that likely contribute to innovations in human metabolic and cognitive physiology. However, it has been difficult to assess the functional effects of these genetic changes due to the lack of cell culture systems that recapitulate great ape organ complexity. Human and chimpanzee pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) can self-organize into three-dimensional (3D) tissues that recapitulate morphological, functional, and genetic aspects of organ development. Our vision is to use organoids to study the changes that set modern humans apart from our closest evolutionary relatives as well as all other organisms on the planet.