Areas of interest

The allocation of cells to a specific lineage is regulated by the activities of key signalling pathways and developmentally regulated transcription factors.

The focus of our research is to understand the influence of signalling and transcription factors on differentiation during early human development.

During preimplantation development, totipotent human zygotes undergo subsequent rounds of mitotic cell divisions leading to the divergence of pluripotent embryonic cells, which form the foetus, and extra-embryonic cells, which contribute to the placenta and yolk sac.

The central question we are addressing is what are the molecular mechanisms that regulate embryonic stem cell pluripotency and how is it disengaged during cellular differentiation? We seek to define the genetic hierarchy acting during differentiation, the influence of extracellular signalling and the extent to which these mechanisms are conserved between humans and mice

Our current projects include lineage specification in human preimplantation development and derivation of novel stem cell lines; inducible switch of stem cells from a pluripotency to differentiation program; and extracellular signalling and exit from stem cell self-renewal.

Infographic explaining CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing and human embryo development.

Infographic explaining CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing and human embryo development.

- Nigel Hawtin