Human blastoids: A drug discovery platform for women’s reproductive health

Title Human blastoids: A drug discovery platform for women’s reproductive health
Start date 2022-11-01
End date 2024-04-30
Sponsor European Research Council - Proof of Concept (ERC-PoC)
Institution Institute of Molecular Biotechnology

Associated cell lines


Project Description

The first weeks of human pregnancy are crucial as early abnormalities or insults result in infertility. Therapeutics acting at the onset of embryonic development would offer huge opportunities to improve public health through effective family planning and to reduce an ongoing global fertility decrease with profound economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical consequences. Unfortunately, a drug development program on human embryos is unfeasible due to the inaccessibility and scarcity of embryos, and to ethical issues associated with them. As a result, the attrition rate of drugs for reproductive health is high for all major In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and pharmaceutical companies. Recently, an alternative approach arose from stem cells self-organizing into structures closely resembling pre-implantation embryos (blastocysts), which we termed blastoids. Because stem cells can be largely multiplied, this embryo model provides a scalable and ethical alternative amenable to drug screens, thus opening numerous possibilities for therapeutic breakthroughs. Here, I propose to use human blastoids to discover molecules enhancing blastocyst development and implantation. Blastoids offer a unique opportunity to establish a drug discovery program for early pregnancy and an alternative to the use of animal and human embryos. As such, this path has the potential to decrease the cost of drug development and to increase the rate of approved drugs for reproductive health. The aim of BLASTOID-DISCOVERY is to investigate the commercial feasibility of using blastoids as a new and highly cost-effective tool in the discovery of therapeutics for reproductive health.