The Francis Crick Institute
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Self-organization of the human embryo in the absence of maternal tissues

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-10-01, 15:02 authored by Marta N Shahbazi, Agnieszka Jedrusik, Sanna Vuoristo, Gaelle Recher, Anna Hupalowska, Virginia Bolton, Norah ME Fogarty, Alison Campbell, Liani G Devito, Dusko Ilic, Yakoub Khalaf, Kathy K Niakan, Simon Fishel, Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz
Remodelling of the human embryo at implantation is indispensable for successful pregnancy. Yet it has remained mysterious because of the experimental hurdles that beset the study of this developmental phase. Here, we establish an in vitro system to culture human embryos through implantation stages in the absence of maternal tissues and reveal the key events of early human morphogenesis. These include segregation of the pluripotent embryonic and extra-embryonic lineages, and morphogenetic rearrangements leading to generation of a bilaminar disc, formation of a pro-amniotic cavity within the embryonic lineage, appearance of the prospective yolk sac, and trophoblast differentiation. Using human embryos and human pluripotent stem cells, we show that the reorganization of the embryonic lineage is mediated by cellular polarization leading to cavity formation. Together, our results indicate that the critical remodelling events at this stage of human development are embryo-autonomous, highlighting the remarkable and unanticipated self-organizing properties of human embryos.