Yao Lab In the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Reprogramming, Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine

In the body, the ICM gives rise to the fetus while the trophectoderm gives rise to the placenta.  Under in vitro culture conditions, the ICM can be used to derive pluripotent embryonic stem cells (ESCs) – cells that have the potential to become any cell type in the body.  Stem cell research is currently heavily focused on how human ESCs can be directed to develop into specific cell types for research and potential transplantation to replace damaged or diseased cells in the body.  Specific cell types, such as skin, fat, and hair follicle cells, have also been reprogrammed to produce induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to bypass the need to use human embryos for regenerative medicine.  However, the sequence of molecular events that are required to reprogram specific cell types to become pluripotent, yet not oncogenic (i.e. cancer-causing), are not well understood.


Insights into early human embryo development are critical for understanding the mechanisms underlying development and human diseases. We propose that the recipe for Nature’s reprogramming toolkit -- one that has been shaped by evolution, no less -- lies in the preimplantation embryo. If we understand how Nature does it, we could apply its strategies along with cell- or disease-specific modifications, to develop improved or new treatments for a wide range of human diseases.

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