Awakening of the human genome can be studied using the new stem cell population as per a study at the Babraham Institute, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
The early mammalian embryo undergoes several molecular events just after fertilization that set the stage for the rest of development. During this key ‘wake up call’ the genome of the embryo takes over control of the cell’s activities from the maternal genome.
‘New discovery of the stem cell model allows for mapping out the key genomic changes during early development, thereby improving the understanding of developmental disorders and embryo loss.’
In humans, this happens at the 8-cell stage (called zygotic genome activation ZGA). The study describes a new subset of human embryonic stem cells that closely resemble the cells present at the genomic ‘wake-up call’ of the 8-cell embryo stage in humans.
“Our focus is now to characterize these cells and understand their unique properties so that we can use 8-cell like cells as a tool to ask questions about the molecular changes that may cause developmental issues at this early stage,” says Professor Wolf Reik, Babraham Institute group, leader.