Petit Institute Seminar

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Co-hosted with the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

"Synthetic Human Embryo-like Structure: A New Paradigm for Human Embryology"

Jianping Fu, Ph.D.
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Department of Cell & Developmental Biology
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Early human embryonic development remains mysterious due to drastic species divergences between humans and other mammalian models and limited accessibility to human embryo samples.  Recent studies from my laboratory and others have shown that under suitable culture conditions human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) can undergo intricate morphogenetic events and self-organize to form patterned human embryo-like structures in vitro.  These synthetic human embryonic tissues hold great promises for advancing human embryology and reproductive medicine.  In this talk, I will describe a hPSC-based, synthetic 3D model of human post-implantation development that recapitulates key developmental landmarks successively, including pro-amniotic cavity formation, amniotic ectoderm-epiblast patterning, primordial germ cell specification, and development of the primitive streak with controlled anteroposterior polarity.  We further show that the amniotic ectoderm, as the first lineage that segregates from the epiblast upon implantation of the human embryo, functions as a signaling center to trigger primitive streak development in the epiblast.  Together, our research has developed a powerful synthetic embryological model and provided new understandings of previously inaccessible but critical embryogenic events in human development.

Jianping Fu is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His group integrates micro/nanoengineering, single-cell technologies, and systems and synthetic biology methods with new discoveries of mechanobiology, epigenetics, and stem cell biology for advancing understandings of human development and cancer biology.  Fu is the recipient of the American Heart Association Scientist Development Award (2012), the National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2012), the UM Mechanical Engineering Outstanding Faculty Achievement Award (2014), the UM Robert M. Caddell Memorial Award for Research (2014), the UM Ted Kennedy Family Team Excellence Award (2015), the Rising Star Award from the Biomedical Engineering Society - Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering (2016), and the UM George J. Huebner, Jr. Research Excellence Award (2018).  Fu's research on developing synthetic models of human embryonic development has contributed significantly to the emerging field of "Synthetic Embryos", which was selected by the MIT Technology Review as “10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2018.”  


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