Human embryogenesis: A comparative perspective


Understanding human embryology has historically relied on comparative approaches using mammalian model organisms. With the advent of low-input methods to investigate genetic and epigenetic mechanisms and efficient techniques to assess gene function, we can now study the human embryo directly. These advances have transformed the investigation of early embryogenesis in nonrodent species, thereby providing a broader understanding of conserved and divergent mechanisms. Here, we present an overview of the major events in human preimplantation development and place them in the context of mammalian evolution by comparing these events in other eutherian and metatherian species. We describe the advances of studies on postimplantation development and discuss stem cell models that mimic postimplantation embryos. A comparative perspective highlights the importance of analyzing different organisms with molecular characterization and functional studies to reveal the principles of early development. This growing field has a fundamental impact in regenerative medicine and raises important ethical considerations.