Research ArticleDevelopmental Biology

Assembly of embryonic and extra-embryonic stem cells to mimic embryogenesis in vitro

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Science  02 Mar 2017:
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal1810

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Mammalian embryogenesis requires intricate interactions between embryonic and extra-embryonic tissues to orchestrate and coordinate morphogenesis with changes in developmental potential. Here, we combine mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and extra-embryonic trophoblast stem cells (TSCs) in a 3D-scaffold to generate structures whose morphogenesis is remarkably similar to natural embryos. By using genetically-modified stem cells and specific inhibitors, we show embryogenesis of ESC- and TSC-derived embryos, ETS-embryos, depends on crosstalk involving Nodal signaling. When ETS-embryos develop, they spontaneously initiate expression of mesoderm and primordial germ cell markers asymmetrically on the embryonic and extra-embryonic border, in response to Wnt and BMP signaling. Our study demonstrates the ability of distinct stem cell types to self-assemble in vitro to generate embryos whose morphogenesis, architecture, and constituent cell-types resemble natural embryos.

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