Yao Lab In the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Human Development and Reproduction

The human embryo, like all other mammalian embryos, is reprogrammed to develop into a fetus without causing cancer or disease some or most of the time.  We do not know precisely what is Nature’s “success rate”, because mistakes in reprogramming may cause a wide spectrum of diseases ranging from birth defects in the offspring, adult-onset diseases that may have embryonic origins, and reproductive diseases in the “parents”.  The most severe developmental defects cause early embryo lethality, which may only be known to patients and doctors as “unexplained infertility”, “failed in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment”, or “miscarriage”.  The critical link between reprogramming, stem cell science and clinical infertility underscores an urgent call to study mechanisms underlying infertility, especially cases of failed IVF treatment, and miscarriage. 

Currently, the critical link between pre-implantation embryo biology and the rest of medicine is not well recognized, and efforts there are not well funded.  It may be a surprise to many people, scientists and the public alike, that a crucial part of the answer to cure many diseases, including heart disease, spinal cord injuries, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and many cancers, may lie in the mammalian embryo, prior to the formation of embryonic stem cells.  By having most of reproductive medicine and preimplantation embryo biology unsupported by public and major foundation funds, we are compromising scientific progress in the research for many diseases and many people. 

  We address the fundamental knowledge gap by undertaking active:

  1. Basic Science Research that uses the mouse embryo as our experimental model to understand reprogramming in the embryo
    and
  2. Translational Research to study factors that influence live birth outcomes in IVF.

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