Creating the first self-developing embryo from stem cells

How Cambridge scientists developed the world’s first self-developing mouse embryo from stem cells, and the implications for advances in human IVF treatment and for understanding of how life itself starts

  • Mon 18th Jun 2018

How a single fertilised egg transforms into a growing embryo is one of the great mysteries of biology. Better understanding this process offers hope for preventing diseases caused by failures in the developmental process. In this lecture, Prof. Zernicka-Goetz will tell the story of how her team at Cambridge developed the embryo-like structure without egg and sperm. Instead, the team seeded the embryos from embryonic stem cells.

Their aim is to illuminate the developmental process before and after the embryo is implanted in the mother’s womb. Scientists believe that as many as two-thirds of miscarriages take place before or soon after the embryo has implanted – and often before the woman is even aware that she is pregnant. “Knowing how development normally occurs will allow us to understand why it so often goes wrong,” says Zernicka-Goetz. “It’s incredibly beautiful that we can begin to understand those forces that give rise to self-organisation during the earliest stage of development.”

Prof. Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, University of Cambridge

Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz is a professor in mammalian development and stem cell biology at the University of Cambridge and a fellow Sidney Sussex College. She runs a research group and lectures in the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, having moved to Cambridge 22 years ago from Poland. Today she leads a team of 20 postdoctoral scientists and graduate students. She has published more than 117 papers, lectured all over the world and received numerous awards and honours.

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