Human blastoids: A discovery platform for early human embryogenesis

Title Human blastoids: A discovery platform for early human embryogenesis
Start date 2021-01-04
End date 2027-01-04
Sponsor European Research Council - Consolidator Grant (ERC-CoG)
Institution Institute of Molecular Biotechnology

Associated cell lines

Project Description

The first weeks of human embryonic development are crucial. Early abnormalities or insults result not only in infertility, but also contribute to a long-term impairment of human health (e.g., cardiovascular disease and diabetes). Managing the onset of pregnancy therefore offers a huge opportunity to improve public health through effective family planning and disease prevention. To better manage pregnancy, biomedical research would require large numbers of human embryos for use in genetic and drug screening. Unfortunately, however, the scarcity of human embryos makes this impossible. Recently, hope for an alternative approach has come from work in my lab showing that mouse stem cells self-organize into structures closely resembling pre-implantation embryos (blastocysts), which we termed blastoids. Because stem cells can be grown in large numbers and genetically modified, these embryo models provide a powerful, scalable alternative that is amenable to drug and genetic screens, thus opening numerous possibilities for therapeutic breakthroughs. Here, I propose the development of human blastoids to model embryogenesis in vitro. This platform will be used to identify potential targets for the therapeutic modulation of the molecular pathways that control early embryogenesis and will pave the way to establishing a drug discovery pipeline for the management of implantation. This project will generate key insights into druggable molecules controlling early human embryogenesis, facilitating identification of therapeutic targets to improve in vitro fertilization procedures and contraception, and ultimately, to prevent several chronic diseases.