Self-organising stem cells


         3rd of June          The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine of the U.S.A. published the proceedings of a workshop held in January 2020 in Washington and termed Examining the State of the Science of Mammalian Embryo Model Systems. The scientific and biomedical perspectives opened by stem cell-based embryo models are discussed, including for blastoids.

         4th of May          The lab of Derk Ter Berge (Erasmus University)  publishes the establishment of lines of Rosette Stem Cells in Nature Cell Biology. Great collaboration! The paper is accompanied by a News and Views from the Kyle Loh lab (Stanford).

         1st of May           Giovanni Sestini joins us on 1st of May. Welcome!

        3rd of March        The lab of Janet Rossant (University of Toronto) and collaborators make detailed analysis of the single cell RNA sequencing data from blastoids, confirm the presence of analogs of the 3 founding cell types (Epi, Tr, PrE), and their transcriptional proximity to the cells of blastocysts. They also (and mainly) question the potential for extended/expanded potential stem cells to form functional trophoblasts.

    11th of February      Suggestions for ethical guidelines for the use of human embryo models are published in Stem Cell Reports along with Insoo Hyun (Case Western Reserve University / Harvard University), Megan Munsie (University of Melbourne), Martin Pera (The Jackson Laboratory), and Janet Rossant (University of Toronto). The result of in-depth collegial discussions.

  16th of December     The lab of Madgalena Zernicka-Goetz (Caltech) makes use of our blastoid protocol. They confirm the presence of analogs of the 3 founding cell types (Epi, Tr, PrE), the potential to implant in utero, and then replace the embryonic stem cells by extended potential stem cells to investigate their capacity to form primitive endoderm. Great follow-up!

We research how self-organization contributes to 

coordinated cellular decision-making during development.

Fish schools, ant colonies and bird flocks are complex systems that coordinate their collective behaviors to control the emergence and progression of patterns and functions. For example, fishes form schools with specific shapes that allow them to swim faster and protect them from predators better than individual animals are able to. This broad range of decentralized, adaptive and emergent behaviors based on local interactions and dynamic feedbacks is called self-organization. We explore how self-organization complements traditional hierarchical genetic (e.g., HOX genes collinearity) and molecular (e.g., externally imposed morphogen gradients) processes to shape the mammalian organism.


The blastocyst is the early mammalian organism before implantation (day 5 for mice, day 9 for humans). It is a powerful model for self-organization because it is autonomous, adaptive, and small enough to be studied in great detail. We discovered how to promote the in vitro self-organization of stem cells into structures remarkably resembling the mouse blastocyst. We called these models blastoids (Nature 2018). Blastoids contain analogs of all three cell types that further develop into the complete organism (embryonic and extra-embryonic tissues), and implant when transferred in utero. Contrary to blastocysts, blastoids are versatile in that they facilitate the more systematic modulation and analysis of the impact of cell numbers, states and communication mechanisms on development. Blastoids are also amenable to screenings and complex genetic manipulations, which are at the base of scientific and biomedical discoveries.. As such, it opens previously inaccessible ways to investigate the interaction rules and design principles underlying the self-organization of the embryo.


The laboratory is at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, Austrian Academy of Science in Vienna. 


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©2017 by Nicolas Rivron Lab.